WASHINGTON, (AFP) – Syria has failed to meet Washington’s hopes since the Obama administration started to engage with the former US foe, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview published Friday.
“Syria’s behavior has not met our hopes and expectations over the past 20 months — and Syria’s actions have not met its international obligations,” the chief US diplomat told the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar.
“Syria can still choose another path and we hope that it does,” she added.
“Let me be clear: We are not engaging for engagement’s sake. We are engaging to advance our interests and to find areas where cooperation can promote mutual interests,” she said.
The Obama administration announced in June last year it would send an ambassador back to Syria as Washington tries to engage with Damascus in a bid to revive Arab-Israeli peace talks.
However, its nominee for ambassador — Robert Ford — has still not been confirmed by the Senate.
Clinton added: “We have had some useful conversations.”
“For example, special envoy George Mitchell has engaged with Syria on the Middle East peace progress, and my Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman has had good consultations with Syrian officials about Iraq,” she said.
“But we have also had some very difficult discussions with Damascus about its actions in Lebanon and elsewhere,” the secretary said.
“Syria lives with consequences of pursuing policies that are outside established international norms — which is largely why the region’s economic development of the past decade has left Syria behind,” she said.
She also pledged: “Our engagement with Syria will never come at Lebanon?s expense. Nor will it come at the expense of holding Syria accountable for its behavior.”
The United States has accused Syria of illicitly arming Hezbollah and other militias and showing “flagrant disregard” for the country’s independence. Syria has rejected the charge.
Hezbollah has stepped up pressure on the UN-backed investigation into the 2005 killing of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri. Hezbollah’s leader said all Lebanese should boycott the probe.