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Thursday, May 03, 2007 

US and Syrian Foreign Ministers hold talks

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallim have held talks for the first time.

It marks a new high in the growing relationship between the two countries. It is the highest level talks since the US recalled their ambassador to Damascus two years ago.

It comes days after the US military leader of Iraq, said through his spokesman, Major General William Caldwell: "There has been some movement by the Syrians ... there has been a reduction in the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq" for more than a month.

The talks happened on the sidelines of a conference about Iraq in Egypt. Just weeks ago a similar conference was held in Baghdad, and senior Americans and Syrians held talks, surprising everyone - it seems that was in preparation of today's groundbreaking moves.

The US has not held similar talks with Iran. So it could be that these moves are part of the Saudi initiative to split Syria from Iran - bringing Syria into the Saudi/Egypt/US fold, while continuing to isolate Iran.

The Levant has been abuzz with rumour that the Hariri tribunal is almost dead - it's daddy, French President Jacques Chirac will be replaced on Sunday, Bush is making overtures towards Syria, and on his visit to Damascus this week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon rejected calls to force the tribunal through, despite Lebanese demands.

Today's talks will do nothing to quell those rumours.

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