U.S., Syrian officials meet in Washington
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U.S., Syrian officials meet in Washington

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Top U.S. and Syrian officials are meeting in Washington to "advance" the relationship.

Fayssal Mekdad, the deputy Syrian foreign minister, is meeting this week with Jeffrey Feltman, the assistant secretary of state in charge of the Middle East.

"We have a wide range of common interests between Syria and the United States in the region," P.J. Crowley, the U.S. State Department spokesman, said Tuesday. "And I suspect that we covered the full range of them, and we also discussed the current status of our bilateral relationship and how to advance it going forward."

The Obama administration wants to peel Syria away from Iran’s influence, tamp down its interference in neighboring Lebanon and Iraq, and reduce its backing for anti-Israel terrorist groups.

President Obama has said that he also wants eventually to draw Lebanon and Syria into broader Arab-Israeli peace talks.