President Barack Obama is troubled by Syria’s behavior but is hoping for progress in boosting ties with Damascus.
In an interview to be screened Sunday on Sky News, Obama was asked by the British television channel if he would accept an invitation for direct talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus.
“We’ve started to see some diplomatic contacts between the United States and Syria,” Obama said in the interview recorded during his visit to Ghana on Saturday.
“There are aspects of Syrian behavior that trouble us and we think that there is a way that Syria can be much more constructive on a whole host of these issues.
“But, as you know, I’m a believer in engagement and my hope is that we can continue to see progress on that front,” Obama said.
In late June, the US State Department praised Syria for its “constructive role to promote peace and stability” as it announced plans to return an ambassador to Damascus after a four-year absence.
The announcement represented a considerable warming in relations between the two countries, as the US has rejected the policy of isolation employed by the Bush administration in favor of one of engagement.
A significant amount of the Sky interview was devoted to speaking about Africa, on which Obama said, “At some point despite [its] tragic history… we have to say that the days of colonialism are over, that Africa has the resources and the talent necessary to move forward and it’s time to go ahead and get things done.
“And for those of us in the West, he went on, “I think our obligation is to on the one hand say we are committed to working with you and we will provide you assistance where possible.”
On Afghanistan, the US president called for the creation of “an Afghan army, an Afghan Police,” and said that the US should “work with the Pakistanis effectively, so that they are the ones who are really at the forefront of controlling their own countries.”
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