"Today, there is real optimism because the two parties realize the
importance of improving bilateral relations in order to achieve global
peace," Syria's official daily, A-Thawra, said.
Officials said the State Department has sent a team of experts to
determine the security requirements for the embassy in Damascus. They said
the embassy could relocate in an effort to reduce its visibility and avoid
violent anti-U.S. demonstrations.
Kelly said the State Department informed the Syrian embassy in
Washington and the Syrian Foreign Ministry in Damascus of the U.S. decision
to return its ambassador. The official did not say when the ambassador would
arrive in Syria.
"This decision reflects the administration's recognition of the
important role Syria plays in the region," Kelly said. "And of course, we
hope that they will continue to play such a constructive role to promote
peace and stability in the region."
In 2005, Washington recalled its ambassador to Syria in wake of the
assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Assad
regime has been linked to the car-bombing in Beirut
that killed the pro-U.S. Lebanese politician.
In mid-June, Syria and the United States conducted their first military
cooperation talks in at least five years. A delegation from U.S. Central
Command discussed security along the Iraqi-Syrian border.
"I know that they have played a positive role in addressing some of our
very real concerns about foreign fighters crossing from Syria," Kelly said.
"We've had some good discussions with them in those four different visits
that we had to Damascus."
Officials said the return of the U.S. ambassador would also facilitate
any renewal of Israeli-Syrian peace talks. They said U.S. envoy to the
Middle East, George Mitchell, urged Obama to quickly restore diplomatic
relations with Damascus in an effort to advance American proposals for an
Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, captured in the 1967 war.
"On an immediate level, the announcement to return an ambassador is tied
to Syria's agreement on Iraq security and intelligence sharing," the
authoritative blog, Syria Comment, reported.