US senators in Syria mission for Romney

US senators in Syria mission for Romney

Emine Kart ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
US senators in Syria mission for Romney

Along with Sen Lieberman, Sen McCain holds talks on Syria in Turkey. AP photo

U.S. Republican Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman have showed up in Istanbul for a reported “fact-finding mission” on Syria on behalf of Mitt Romney, the Grand Old Party’s challenger for the White House against incumbent Barack Obama.

“Their visit can be described as a fact-finding mission aimed at offering their first-hand information to their colleagues from the Republicans and especially to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is known with his hawkish approach on Syria,” a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

The pair arrived in Turkey on Sept. 2 as part of a three-country regional tour, holding talks with Syrian activists in Istanbul. The two held talks in Baghdad yesterday and were set to proceed to Milan later in the day.

The two Republicans, described by the Turkish diplomat as “wise men,” visited Turkey in April and held talks with both President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan while also visiting a refugee camp in Hatay.

“Both in a personal capacity, and with their identities of being leading Republican figures, they at the time maintained that the Democrats were not responding appropriately to the humanitarian tragedy in Syria,” the diplomat said, adding that the pair had refrained from “earth-shaking or hawkish statements” and that they were not looking to score domestic political points.

Romney is known to be far more hawkish on the issue of Syria, with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, saying Sept. 2 that Romney was “ready to go to war in Syria and Iran.”

McCain and Lieberman, who are – according to the Turkish diplomat – aware of the need for Washington to develop closer cooperation with Syria’s neighbors, are expected to share their observation of the latest visit to Turkey with the Obama administration.

The two senators did not meet with any Turkish official due to Turkey’s busy domestic agenda. However, while in Istanbul, they conducted a telephone conversation with Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, who is based at the ministry’s headquarters in Ankara, the Daily News learned.

A Western-based observer, meanwhile, said McCain and Lieberman might have chosen to meet with Syrian activists instead of members of the Syrian National Council (SNC) after seeing read-outs of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meeting with a group of Syrian activists who avoided talking about their future career in the interests of only offering views on concrete matters. Clinton was reportedly extremely impressed by the activists’ attitude.