US lawmaker says she met with Assad on secret Syria trip

In this July 26, 2016 file photo, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Updated 26 January 2017
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US lawmaker says she met with Assad on secret Syria trip

WASHINGTON: The US congresswoman who made a recent secret trip to war-torn Syria confirmed on Wednesday that she met there with President Bashar Assad as part of her effort to end the years-long conflict.
House Democrat Tulsi Gabbard this month traveled to Damascus and the decimated city of Aleppo on a fact-finding mission, where she met with refugees, Syrian opposition leaders and relatives of fighters on both sides of the divide, in addition to Assad.
“Originally, I had no intention of meeting with Assad, but when given the opportunity, I felt it was important to take it,” Gabbard said in a statement.
“I think we should be ready to meet with anyone if there’s a chance it can help bring about an end to this war, which is causing the Syrian people so much suffering.”
In an interview on CNN, she added: “Whatever you think about President Assad, the fact is that he is the president of Syria. In order for any possibility of a viable peace agreement to occur, there has to be a conversation with him.”
Gabbard, 35, was a member of the Hawaii National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2005.
Two weeks after Donald Trump won the November 8 election, she met with him to discuss Syria, raising speculation that he might consider her for a position at the Pentagon or State Department.
Gabbard, who often clashes with her own party on issues related to Syria, has long opposed a US policy of regime change there, arguing that the country would descend further into chaos should Assad be ousted.


Extremists kill 9 Syria regime fighters near Idlib: monitor

Updated 16 November 2018
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Extremists kill 9 Syria regime fighters near Idlib: monitor

  • Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests
  • Extremist groups attacked government forces in the northwest of Hama province near a planned buffer zone

BEIRUT: Extremists on Friday killed nine Syrian regime fighters near a planned buffer zone around the country’s last major rebel bastion, a monitor said.
A September deal between government ally Russia and opposition backer Turkey aimed to set up a de-militarised zone around the northwestern region of Idlib to protect it from a regime assault.
But its implementation has been stalled since extremists who hold around 70 percent of the planned buffer area failed to withdraw by mid-October, and sporadic clashes have rocked the area since.
Early Friday, extremist groups attacked government forces in the northwest of Hama province near the planned buffer zone, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Nine regime fighters and five assailants were killed” in the attack, causing government forces to respond with artillery fire, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The attackers included the Al-Qaeda-linked Hurras Al-Deen group, which has publicly rejected the Russian-Turkish deal, he said.
The lion’s share of Idlib is held by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, an alliance led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate.
Under the September 17 deal, all fighters in the zone were supposed to withdraw their heavy weapons and militants including HTS and Hurras Al-Deen were supposed to leave.
On Thursday, Russian spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized “sporadic clashes,” as well as “provocations” by HTS in northwestern Syria.
Late last month, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem expressed dissatisfaction with the implementation of the Idlib deal, and criticized Turkey for shortcomings.
He said heavy weapons had not been withdrawn and accused Turkey of not wanting to “respect its obligations.”
Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.