Influential U.S. Senator John McCain has made an unannounced visit to Syria to meet with rebels fighting a two-year conflict to oust President Bashar al-Assad, VoA Reported.
McCain’s aides said the senator crossed from Turkey into Syria with Free Syrian Army rebel commander General Salam Idris on Monday, and remained for several hours before returning to Turkish territory.
McCain is one of the leading voices in the U.S. Congress calling for greater U.S. assistance to the rebels.His brief visit to Syria makes him one of the most senior U.S. officials to enter the country since the anti-Assad rebellion evolved into a civil war after peaceful protests in March 2011.
In an interview with U.S. blog The Daily Beast, General Idris said McCain met with Free Syrian Army rebels on both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border. Idris said the rebels had come from all over Syria to meet the prominent U.S. lawmaker.
McCain has been urging the Obama administration to provide greater support to the Free Syrian Army by providing it with lethal weapons and by using U.S. warplanes and missiles to create and defend rebel safe zones inside Syria.
The Obama administration has provided non-lethal equipment and humanitarian supplies to the rebels. But it has been reluctant to intervene further, fearing U.S.-supplied weapons could end up in the hands of anti-American Islamist rebels.
The Daily Beast quoted General Idris as welcoming McCain’s visit. Idris said rebels who met the senator urged the United States to provide them with weapons and ammunition, enforce a no-fly zone against Mr. Assad’s air force, and launch strikes against pro-Assad Lebanese Hezbollah militants in both Syria and Lebanon.
The blog said McCain’s trip was coordinated by the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a U.S.-based group that supports the Syrian opposition. There was no immediate comment from McCain about his Syria visit.