Turkish FM to visit Syria, Iran

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will visit Syria and Iran “in the near future” according to a report in the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

The decision to travel on a diplomatic mission to the two countries followed a meeting between Davutoglu and Turkish Prime Minister Reccip Tayyip Erdogan.

Relations between Turkey and Syria have been strained recently as military operations in northern Syria continue and thousands of refugees have fled into camps near the border in Turkey.

A US State Department official speaking at a press conference on Tuesday said the US had “offered its assistance to Turkey”.

The situation continues to be extremely difficult. As you know, we have offered our assistance to the government of Turkey, including through Turkish Red Crescent. So, you know, we remain concerned about that border,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters.

The towns in northern Syria, which have seen bitter violence in recent weeks, such as Jisr al-Shughour, Marat Al-Numan and Khirbet al-Jouz, are in close proximity to many ancient ruins known as The Dead Cities.

The Dead Cities, a collection of about 700 mostly Byzantine abandoned settlements between Hama and Aleppo, were named a UNESCO World Heritage site on Wednesday along with three other sites in Asia, three in Europe and one in Africa.

Syrian opposition figures visit Kremlin

Prominent Syrian opposition figures visited Russia on Tuesday to persuade Moscow to withdraw its backing for President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia should help Syria to reach freedom and democracy by putting more pressure on the Syrian President to resign,” Mulham Al Droubi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, told journalists.

The visit, Russia said, was unofficial and organised through a non-governmental society.

Last week, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin seemed to play down relations with Syria, saying that Russia had “no special relationship” with Damascus.

In response, Vice-President Farouk al-Shara, Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu’allem and prominent businessman Dr Abdul Rahman al-Attar met with Alexander Dzasokhov, the head of the Russian-Syrian Friendship Association, in Damascus.

Conflicting accounts of US congressman’s visit

US Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s meeting with President Assad has prompted bizarre accounts of the meeting in Syrian state media and a denial by the US congress.

According to a SANA report on the meeting, Kucinich called on international media not to engage in exaggerating the events in Syria as well as democratic reforms.

"All whom I talked to during the last few days spoke about the importance of stopping violence. It is very important to stop violence, and this is a responsibility the government is aware of and deals with seriously,” he said at a press conference at the Four Seasons hotel.

He added that “at the same time, people know that their legitimate aspirations cannot be ignored…I came here to understand what these aspirations are and to convey this to the members of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. administration, as well as to the international community.”

SANA quoted Kucinich as saying “President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians,” prompting strong criticism from some in the US.

But Kucinich responded in a statement by saying the report “contained a number of mistranslations and mischaracterised statements.

He added that “it is unfortunate that translation errors can create such problems. Given the stakes for Syria and the region, I will consider the article only an error, not a willful intent to mischaracterize my statements or my efforts in the region.”

Kucinich is known for attempting to impeach then President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and being the only Democratic candidate in the 2008 election to have voted against invading Iraq.

Britain summons Syria envoy over alleged ‘intimidation’

Reports that Syria’s ambassador to the UK has been involved in intimidation of Syrians involved in protests there prompted Britain to summon the diplomat to “express its concerns”.

Syrian Ambassador Dr Sami Khiyami was invited in to see the (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) Middle East Director Christian Turner,” said a foreign ministry statement. “Mr Turner made clear our strong concerns about the media allegations that a diplomat at the Syrian Embassy has been intimidating Syrians in Britain.”

Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday that Syrians involved in anti-government protests in Britain had been intimidated by agents of the Syrian government.

Khiyami had been invited to the Royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine, and he was previously summoned on May 13 to be warned that new sanctions would follow if violence against protesters continued.

But on Tuesday it was revealed that a Conservative Party MP, Brooks Neumark, visited President Assad in Damascus, although the UK government has denied he went with government or party backing.

No official response has yet been issued about the incident by Syrian authorities.

Syria Today (Syria)