Robert Ford Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Syria has cautiously welcomed Robert Ford's appointment as US Ambassador saying both countries needed to resolve a host of issues before talking about an improvement in relations, sources close to the Syrian government told Gulf News.

There was no immediate reaction from the Syrian Foreign Ministry.

The US is returning an ambassador to Syria after a five-year absence.

US President Barack Obama's decision assumes significance as he used his presidential powers to make recess appointments to fill envoy posts to Syria, Azerbaijan, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

The other envoys appointed by Obama are Matthew Bryza for Azerbaijan, Norman Eisen for the Czech Republic and Francis Ricciardone for Turkey.

Recess appointments are made when the Senate is not in session and last only until the end of the next session of Congress.

Obama's move could be a result of Republican senators repeatedly blocking the four appointments.

In the case of Syria, Republican senators felt that the time was not suitable to send a new envoy to Syria as this will send a "wrong signal" to Syrian leaders, but according to Ayman Abdul Nour, a Dubai-based Syrian analyst, Obama's decision was necessary in light of regional developments. "Taking into consideration Syrian influence on some parties in Lebanon, Obama felt it would be useful to have an envoy in Damascus, especially when the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is preparing to announce its indictments in the Hariri case."

The US has had no ambassador to Syria since former president George W. Bush withdrew his envoy from Damascus following the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and 22 of his companions on February 14, 2005.

The then US administration accused Syrian leaders of being involved in the assassination and supported the establishment of a special tribunal to prosecute those involved in planning and executing the crime.

Relations between the US and Syria went through a difficult period under the Bush administration since the US invaded Iraq in 2003. The chill has thawed relatively in the past two years under Obama.

Other issues

Dr Marwan Kabalan, Professor of Political Science at the Damascus University, said Syria has always considered the appointment of an ambassador to Damascus as an issue that will help the US more.

"Syria wants to see improvement in its relations with the US on different levels including the trade embargo and annulling the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act issued by the US against Syria in December 2003.

"Obama's move to bypass the Senate is definitely good and reflects an appreciation of the role of Syria in the complex issues in the region," he said.