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Syrian official says foreign minister considering 1st visit to Baghdad since Saddam fall - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem is considering a visit to Baghdad, the first by a top Syrian figure since Saddam Hussein’s fall in 2003, a Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday.

“The idea is being considered, but no date has been set yet,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give statements to the press.

Some U.S. politicians have urged the White House make overtures to Syria to enlist its help in solving the crisis in Iraq, where Damascus is believed to have influence with some Sunni insurgent groups.

There have been talks in the past year between Syria and Iraq on restoring diplomatic ties and exchanging ambassadors but a date was never set for opening embassies and appointing ambassadors.

Syria broke relations with Baghdad in 1982, accusing Iraq of inciting riots by the banned Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, and Damascus also sided with Tehran during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Commercial ties improved during the last few years of Saddam’s rule before he was overthrown in 2003, but no Syrian ministers have visited Baghdad for more than six years.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad said earlier this month that al-Moallem would visit Baghdad following the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ended in the Arab world on Oct. 23-24, and that he would discuss the restoration of diplomatic ties with senior Iraqi officials. Syrian officials had said in February that Syria would exchange ambassadors with Iraq once a new Iraqi government was formed, marking the first time Damascus set a time frame for restoring full diplomatic ties with Baghdad after a 23-year break.

The new government took office in Iraq in May but there has been no exchange of ambassadors. Syria has been feeling increasingly isolated and pressured over, among other things, allegations from the U.S. that it has failed to stem the flow of foreign fighters using its territory to infiltrate across the porous border into Iraq.