A top US diplomat has described as “candid” his lengthy talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad – part of a US move to improve ties with Damascus.

Under-Secretary of State William Burns‘ visit comes a day after US President Barack Obama officially nominated the first US ambassador to Syria in five years.

Syrian-US ties snapped in 2005 when the US withdrew its envoy after Lebanon’s former PM Rafik Hariri was assassinated.

Following his talks with Assad, Burns said in a statement: “We talked candidly about the areas in which we disagree, but also identified the areas of common ground on which we can build.”

He added: “There are challenges on the road but my meeting with President Assad leaves me hopeful that we can make progress together in the interest of both our countries.” BBC

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