Former American President Jimmy Carter said that Syria and the United States can expect there are "better times ahead" for their bilateral relations. In the first-ever interview for an American president with a Syrian media outlet, Carter hinted that the near future will see the return of the US ambassador to Damascus, filling a post that has been vacant since relations plummeted in 2005. Such a move will coincide with reopening of the American school in Damascus, Carter added, in addition to reopening the American Language Center, both of which were closed by the Syrian government after US warplanes raided the Syrian town of Abu Kamal last October killing eight civilians.
Speaking to Sami Moubayed, Forward's editor in chief, Carter confirmed that he "will be carrying some good greetings to the leaders of the new administration, through my meeting with President Assad."
During his visit to Syria, the fifth since 1983, Carter met with President Bashar al-Assad, who he described as "popular among his people." They discussed Syrian-American relations, in addition to regional developments in the Middle East, including the peace talks between Syria and Israel. Speaking of the involvement of the upcoming administration in Washington, Carter asserted that Obama cannot "put enough pressure on either Syria or Israel to yield on their basic principles." He added, "My hope and my belief are that there are enough compatibilities between the two parties to reach a final agreement."
The full text of this exclusive interview will appear in the January 2009 issue of Forward.