March 7th, 2009
09:05 AM ET
13 years ago

U.S. official finds 'common ground' with Syria during talks

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="US envoy Jeffrey Feltman briefs reporters after meeting with the Syrian foreign minister in Damascus Saturday."]

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The United States and Syria found a lot of "common ground" on which to cooperate in the Middle East, the State Department's top Middle East official said after talks in Damascus.

But envoy Jeffrey Feltman on Saturday warned to "keep expectations in check" as Washington and Damascus re-engage after several years of strained relations. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dispatched Feltman, the assistant secretary of state, and Daniel Shapiro, the top Mideast official at the National Security Council, to the Syrian capital to explore Washington's relationship with Damascus.

In the highest-level visit since 2005, when then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage traveled to the country, Feltman and Shapiro met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and his deputy and Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to President Bashar al-Assad, for more than three hours.

"We discussed a broad range of issues, regional, international and bilateral issues and how we can move forward in a variety of ways," Feltman told reporters on a conference call from Damascus. "We have areas where our interests overlap, we have areas where our interests differ."

Feltman provided few specifics but called the talks "constructive," and said "we found a lot of common ground."

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