Three members of the U.S. Congress made a temporary visit Sunday to opposition-held northwest Syria in what was the primary identified journey to the war-torn nation by American lawmakers in six years.
U.S. Reps. Ben Cline of Virginia, French Hill of Arkansas and Scott Fitzgerald of Wisconsin, all Republicans, entered Syria from Turkey by way of the Bab al-Salama crossing in northern Aleppo province, in accordance to two folks acquainted with the journey. They weren’t approved to publicly talk about the journey and spoke on situation of anonymity after the U.S. delegation had left Syria.
Crossing into opposition-held Syria on what can be a roughly one-hour journey, the lawmakers have been offered with flowers from college students from Knowledge Home. The power is a faculty for orphans that’s a undertaking of the Syrian Emergency Process Drive, a U.S.-based Syrian opposition group that facilitated the lawmakers’ journey.
Hill has been among the many most vocal supporters in Congress of the Syrian opposition and his Arkansas constituents have been donors to the college.
The lawmakers additionally met with opposition and humanitarian leaders, together with Raed Saleh, head of the Syrian opposition’s White Helmets emergency rescue group. The group of volunteer first responders grew to become identified internationally for extracting civilians from buildings bombed by allied Russian forces preventing on behalf Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The United Nations says 300,000 civilians have died within the first 10 years of battle between Assad-allied forces and Syria’s opposition.
Saleh spoke with the lawmakers in regards to the present political standing of the battle in Syria and on persevering with humanitarian efforts for victims of a earthquake earlier this yr in Turkey and Syria, the White Helmets stated on X, the positioning previously generally known as Twitter.
The final identified journey by a U.S. lawmaker to Syria was in 2017, when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., visited U.S. forces stationed in northeast Syria’s Kurdish area. McCain had beforehand visited Syria and met with armed opposition fighters.
Additionally in 2017, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, visited Damascus, the capital, and met with Assad, a resolution that was extensively criticized on the time.
For the reason that starting of the 2011 uprising-turned-civil-war in Syria, the U.S. authorities has backed the opposition and has imposed sanctions on Assad’s authorities and associates over human rights issues. Washington has conditioned restoring relations with Damascus on progress towards a political resolution to the 12-year battle.
Management of northwest Syria is essentially break up between the Turkish-backed opposition teams and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group that was initially based as an offshoot of al-Qaida and is designated as a terrorist group by america. In recent times, the group’s management have tried to publicly distance themselves from their al-Qaida origins.
The Turkish-backed opposition teams have frequently clashed with Kurdish forces primarily based in northeast Syria, who’re allies of america within the struggle towards the Islamic State.
Knickmeyer reported from Washington. Related Press author Omar Albam in Idlib, Syria contributed to this report.