(CNN) - Sen. John McCain visited rebels in Syria on Monday, his communications director confirmed to CNN, making the Arizona Republican the highest ranking elected official from the United States to visit the war-torn country.
Brian Rogers confirmed a report that originally appeared on The Daily Beast, which indicated McCain entered Syria through Turkey, and remained in the country for several hours.
Related: Worries about Syrian civil war on the rise, poll shows
While in Syria, McCain met with Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, according to Mouaz Moustafa with the Washington-based Syrian Emergency Task Force that was involved in planning the trip. He spent about an hour meeting with Free Syrian Amry commanders from various parts of the country including Aleppo, Homs, and Idlib.
McCain is the leading voice in Congress for a greater U.S. role in ending Syria's civil war, which has been waged for more than two years. He has suggested establishing "safe zones" for Syria's rebels and taking out the regime's air assets, along with providing lethal weapons to Syria's opposition.
In their meeting with McCain, leaders of the Syrian rebel forces pressed the United States to provide them with weapons to continue their fight against Syrian President Bashar al Assad. They also called for establishing no-fly zones and for airstrikes against Assad's regime, according to the Daily Beast's report.
His visit came shortly before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to meet in Paris regarding Syria with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. For months during the Syrian war, Russia appeared to be supporting the country's president, Bashar al-Assad. But that tide seems to be turning, at least gaining some wiggle room for the Russians to help broker an end to the violence.
Moustafa of the Syrian Emergency Task Force called McCain's visit "an incredibly important trip and trips like this need to happen more frequently.
"It was very important because one of the biggest arguments against supporting the opposition is not knowing who they are. So being able to sit face-to face with these commanders brings a much higher level of confidence in who they are," he said.
The U.N. estimates that more than 70,000 Syrians have been killed since anti-government protests in March 2011 led to a fierce government crackdown, an armed uprising and a bloody civil war. The war has uprooted a quarter of the country's 22 million civilians.
Republicans and Democrats alike have called on President Barack Obama to ramp up support for Syrian rebels, who now receive nonlethal aid like food and medicine from the United States. In early April that aid was stepped up to include equipment such as body armor, night vision goggles and other military equipment that is considered defensive in nature.
Long an advocate of a more pronounced American effort in Syria, McCain has previously visited camps in Jordan that have harbored massive waves of Syrian refugees. He described one of those camps last month on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"This woman who was a schoolteacher said, 'Sen. McCain, do you see these children here? They're going to take revenge on those people who refused to help them,' " McCain recalled. "They're angry and bitter. And that legacy could last for a long time too, unless we assist them."
But others, including lawmakers from both parties and Obama's administration, have said American arms flowing into Syria could end up in the hands of terrorists.
Officials also say that Iranian-backed militias and Hezbollah units could be operating in the country and potentially infiltrating the rebel opposition.
– CNN's Salma Abdelaziz contributed to this report
I used to really like McCain – now he is just a political hack,
What an idiot. Interventionist policies will only come back to BITE you... This is ridiculous. Do you see China, India or Russia doing any such thing? This move will only create more hatred among muslims towards the US.
When will politicians on BOTH sides of the aisle realize that our getting involved with either rebels or dictators over there there will only end badly for us. It doesn't matter who wins the war, within a year, they will hate us. Just keep out.
This man is out of touch... totally... Out of touch with reality. Can't the GOP come up with some candidates that represent Americans (all Americans) that isn't just bent on making a PR statement? Really??? McCain? He's no longer relevant. Interjecting himself into this is a mistake. His experience is the old GOP war monger mentality. The world has grown WAY BEYOND McCain, and our world issues are beyond his comprehension. Stop this nonsense.
Particularly on Memorial day it saddens me to see a guy who served his country to the maximum now turned to a clueless progressive. Sorry McCain you lost out to Obama what more insult do you need – what will it take for you to quietly retire. With, so called, Republicans like you the Democrat seat is safe and supporting these rebels REALLY? – sad very very sad
If McCain gets out of Syria alive, he should be stripped of his Senatorship immediately. He's crossed the line. He's not the Sec. of State or the Defense Sec., let alone the president. He's grandstanding and it could drag us into another war. He's dangerous on so many levels and unfit to serve in any government position.
Is John McCain for REAL. We just got out of one place we shouldn't been, we're getting out of another place we don't belong next year with our troops dying for NO REASON (Viet Nam) and now this X POW wants to send our young men/women into a place we don't belong. Yes what's going on over there is no right, buts it's not worth NOT ONE American life AND it's not going to change ANYTHING just like Afganhistan.
Shouldn't he be spending his US Government paid time making sure that neither side runs out of ammunition ?
He probably brought some meat to the cannibals.
Art III, sec 3 of the US Constitution: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." This man knows that Al-Quaeda is heavily involved and wants to carve out a safe state for themselves where they can further bomb us. As reported on other news sites(reuters): The opposition crisis deepened on Monday when liberals were offered only token representation, undermining international efforts to lend the Islamist-dominated alliance greater support.
To the dismay of envoys of Western and Arab nations monitoring four days of opposition talks in Istanbul, the 60-member Syrian National Coalition thwarted a deal to admit a liberal bloc headed by opposition campaigner Michel Kilo.
Sen. McCain, do you see these children here? They're going to take revenge on those people who refused to help them,----------–what a high quality of "allies". Bring more of them to Boston by tax dollars
If one to old to fight run if had not forgotten how to.
McCain has nothing better to do. There are dead Americans in Oklahoma and dead kids at Sandy. How about stop the gun lobby and save some REAL AMERICAN lives?
Great idea! Jump in the middle of ANOTHER middle east war! But don't expect healthcare -nooooooooo. That's Socialism.
McCain exhibits Stockholm Syndrome. Rushing to support AlQaeda and Salafis?
What a m o r o n.
Good riddance! Let's just hope he doesn't come back.
Obama gave these rebels 143 million dollars in aid last month.
McCain visits and he's pure evil. God I love Americans... Pure Idiots
McCain exhibits Stockholm Syndrome. Rushing to support AlQaeda and Salafis?
Old age decrepitude taking its toll.
McCain wants to go wading into every warzone, meanwhile most Republicans don't want the US to get involved in any outside conflicts. Then everyone on both sides blames the current Administration for not doing what they believe is right. Sigh. The system is so beyond broken, no wonder nothing gets done.
McCain never saw a war that he didn't like.
Yeah because Iraq worked out so well. We had 100,000 troops there for a decade and they are still killing each other.
he should be here dealing with Americas problems.... not trying to help his military interests make more profits at the expense of americans
i dont want to end the war. I want the saudis to get screwed by their own civil war.. keep it going obama.. dont let gop fool you. GOP is run by wahabees.
How about we give McCain and every other member of congress a gun and send them to help fight with the Syrian rebels. That would solve a lot of problems.
There are so many wrongs with this, "right" took lethal injuries and may never be heard from again. It is highly unorthodox and borderline treasonous for a sitting US Senator to travel to a foreign country and attempt to dictate foreign policy without the direction of the President of the United States. Even expressing support for one side or another is brash and very very dangerous. Someone needs to remind this old coot that he lost the election – and thank heavens he did. The US would be embroiled in every conflict on the planet if he were sitting in the Oval Office. Please Senator, you've served your country honorably. Just fade away into retirement before you tarnish your image even more than you have in recent years.