(CNN) - On his first campaign conference call as a surrogate for John McCain, Rudy Giuliani accused an unpaid advisor for Barack Obama’s presidential effort of engaging in a freelance diplomatic “mission” when he met with a Syrian official last month in Damascus.
Giuliani said Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who also served as the first Jewish U.S. ambassador to Egypt, had met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Kurtzer did not meet with the Syrian president during his trip, which was not connected to Obama’s presidential effort.
He did meet with Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem while in Damascus for a legal conference co-sponsored by the American Bar Association and paid for by donations from a Canadian oil company and Syrian corporations.
Discussions should only take place "when you have confidence that you're not being used," said Giuliani, charging that Kurtzer’s actions might be a result of an Obama policy of “negotiating with dictators without precondition."
Listen: Giuliani takes aim at Obama's advisor
Kurtzer, who advises Obama’s campaign on Middle East affairs, has been an advocate of diplomatic engagement with the government of Syria.
McCain foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann, asked about his lobbying work on behalf of the nation of Georgia, responded that his actions were different because they were not “covert.” The reporter who asked the question, Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, abruptly dropped off the call. He later alleged that the campaign had cut him off.
(UPDATE with Obama campaign response after the jump)
UPDATE: Obama foreign policy advisor Susan Rice responded to Giuliani’s charges on a Wednesday afternoon conference call with reporters, saying “there is nothing but falsehood and distortion” in the comments.
“[Kurtzer] did not represent the Obama campaign or Senator Obama, he went as a private citizen. And so John McCain who himself sat down one-on-one and had a meeting with the leader of the same country in its most active moment of support for terrorism – to criticize a private citizen for taking a private trip is absolutely outrageous and dishonest,” said Rice. “If John McCain wants to be held accountable for the travel and the conduct of every private citizen who may have at one point or another offered him advice then let’s have that discussion.”