(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
The Syrian problem is a civil war. How many times have we gotten involved in internal civil wars, and then get reviled for doing so? Let them fight it out amongst themselves..
Surprised he is all for another war. You would think that after being a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, he would do all he can to keep this country out of other conflicts. I forgot, he is a Republican.
Need to bring all the fighting women and men home now. Let other countries solve their own problems, especially in a civil war.
Senator McCain, you are very courageous and far sighted person. I had the pleasure of voting for you in 2000 and 2008. You certainly speak the truth, and the United States does have obligations. Over 70,000 Syrians have been killed by the Assad regime and there are over 1,500,000 Syrian refugees. CNN has estimated that over 30 percent of the population are now refugees. The Assad regime has used chemical warfare, as the French have testified. We cannot simply avert our eyes.
McCain tries his best to low the reputation of the USA. Is he really that fool?
Befriending cannibals does not look good.
Heck no, for Israhell, our sons to war will not go! McCain and sidekick Liebermann should retire in Israel if they love it so much. Americans are not willing to squander our most treasure, namely, our sons and daughters in another war for McCain's PRECIOUS (said like Golem in the Lord of the Rings, Israel. Remember the USS Liberty!!!!
McCain needs to get his teeth whitened with all that money he got. They're as yellow as rat's teeth!!!! omg
Ability to post here is terrible not anything to do with comments just the way the board operates.
Interesting how so many people are picking on McCain, yet Obama still hasn't ordered troops from Afghanistan or Iraq to come back home or bothered to close Guantanamo( even though that was his promise during his first term)...oh yeah how about the increase use of drones that supposedly are making us safer, yet have killed more innocent civilians??? But according to democrats, Obama is a saint and can do no wrong..
Never ever provide weapons to Muslims. They will use the same weapons to fight us. Haven't you learned from Afghanistan, Libya and Egypt? Leave them alone and let them kill each other.
Lol...Boy Mr. Gov. McCain. So far Everyone posting comments bashes you really well buddy. Maybe you should retire sir and leave the politics for the real politicians make the right decisions.
Amazing, everybody is unanimously against military involvement. Please remember it next time when you vote for another Republican war-crazy bigoted ignorant individual.
We are not the world police and this is not our war. When will our politicians learn that the American people don't want to get involved in this conflict?
McCain to Syria. Watch out cause he will burn anyone whom he thinks is talking about him or does not agree with him. Snake in the grass.Those are his tactics. Useless as they come. And yes, everyone does talk smack about him behind his back. He is so pathetic. LOL
Dont listen to McCain..the united states is in enough debt as is .Let the UN decide as a group on what to do rather than acting alone. We are no longer #1.. lets not let it slip any further.
if we go in we take over,side with no one stop the killing restore order,untill thay can reach a peace treaty and make bolth stick to it.other wise leave them to do what thay do best,kill eachother.
On Memorial Day of all the days to go on this trip. Lets remember all the fallen service men and women (especially the ones killed in Iraq in this case) by helping out the same people who killed them. Backwards much?
Who cars what the old man does!
Stay out of it McCain. Americans are sick and tired of republican Wars.
Doesn't congress, especially Senator McCain, know that the people in the US are sick and tired of wars. It is time to focus on rebuilding our infrastructure and concentrate on better educating our children so they can be prepared for the jobs of the future.
Why is this guy so preoccupied with going to war. Haven't enough young people died for the Arab cause? McCain needs to go to a rest home and stay out of things.
Hmmmm, looks like the GOP is looking for another excuse to wage war, line the pockets of the military-industrial complex (which Rep. President Eisenhower warned us about), create more debt and then use that as an excuse to cut social spending.
Do they really think we're that DUMB to fall for this again?
And are THEY really that dumb to think waging war with a country whose principle sponsor is Russia is a good idea?!?
So, what's so unusual about another hawk republican wanting a war....and more U.S. Military men killed?
Everyone bashing McCain but yet what has the President done to stop the bloodshed? Nothing. He makes campaigns and plays golf. If you were to tell the President that the Syrian conflict was going to interrupt the basketball season I'm sure it'd be a top priority.
Why get involved in Syria? One side is a brutal secular dictatorship that hates America, the other side is tring to establish a brutal theocratic dictatorship that hates America. Does it really matter if the brutal dictatorship that hates America is secular or theocratic?
I say let them kill each other for as long as possible.
McCain does not speak for Americans. He's an Arizona Senator therefore if he is over there telling them or Israel we will go into battle with American soldiers he is blowing it out his rear and should be recalled back to the US.