- By Laura RozenLaura Rozen writes The Cable daily at ForeignPolicy.com.
The two heads of the Senate and House Foreign Affairs committees are currently on separate trips to the Middle East. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is currently in Amman, after having visited Cairo and Luxor, and is heading on to Israel, where he’ll meet with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu; Ramallah where he’ll meet with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister Salam Fayyad, Beirut and Damascus, where he is planning to hold discussions with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "He is meeting with leaders of the region, gathering ideas and thoughts as part of a conversation on moving forward towards Middle East peace," said committee spokesman Frederick Jones.
"Kerry has long been an advocate for engaging with the Syrian regime," Jones added. "He believes that the Bush administration policy of not speaking to the Syrian regime was counterproductive. Yes we have many differences. But he believes it’s important to impress on the Syrians how they can play a constructive role in the region if they change their behavior." Kerry believes the Untied States should return a U.S. ambassador to Damascus, Jones added. Kerry, who has previously visited Syria in 2005 and 2006, is accompanied on the trip by two staff foreign-policy advisors, Frank Lowenstein and Perry Cammack, who holds the Middle East and North Africa portfolio for the committee.
Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is currently on a trip to Syria*. He is accompanied by Alan Makovsky, the senior Middle East advisor to the committee, a former advisor to the late former chairman Tom Lantos, and a former special advisor to then U.S. Middle East peace envoy Dennis Ross. Asked about the trip, a committee spokeswoman said the committee doesn’t discuss the travel of any member of Congress.
UPDATE: Congressman Berman is traveling to Syria only, not as previously reported to Turkey and Lebanon as well. FP regrets the error.