WASHINGTON, March 17 (UPI) -- Persuading Damascus to get in line with the international push toward regional stability requires patient diplomacy, the U.S.-designated envoy to Syria said.
U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Robert Ford, the deputy chief of mission in Iraq, in February to serve as the next U.S. envoy to Damascus. He would be the first envoy since Washington severed diplomatic ties with Syria in 2005.
Ford told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing that negotiating with U.S. adversaries requires a "firm" and "realistic" approach to diplomacy.
"The diplomacy of engagement is a long-term investment," he said in prepared remarks.
Opponents of the appointment complained in a March 5 letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that "engagement for engagement's sake is counterproductive" when dealing with states such as Syria.
Ford said, however, that direct access to the Syrian government could help undermine Syria's traditional role as a spoiler.
Syria has been on the list of state sponsors of terrorism for more than 30 years. Its ties to Hamas and Hezbollah, meanwhile, are problematic for Washington.
Ford said it was vital to convince Syria that its troubled partnerships weren't serving the interest of peace.
"I do not think that the Syrians will change their policies quickly," he said. "Finding avenues of cooperation with Syria will be a step-by-step process that will require patience and steady commitment to our principles."