US-Syria ties thawing

WASHINGTON: The US and Syria held high-level talks yesterday, the day after Washington offered to restore full diplomatic relations by appointing an ambassador for the first time in five years.

President Bashar al-Assad met William Burns, the US under-secretary of state, in Damascus, where Burns said they enjoyed candid talks. “I have no illusions about the challenges. But my meeting with President Assad made me hopeful that we can make progress together in the interest of both of our countries,” Burns said.

On Tuesday, Washington named Robert Ford, a career diplomat, as its new ambassador to Syria. The United States withdrew its ambassador in the year 2005 in protest against the assassination of the Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Syrian intelligence, which has a network of agents inside Lebanon, was suspected of carrying out the killing.