Pictures have emerged showing the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and his wife, Teresa Heinz, dining with President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma al-Assad, as Mr Kerry continued to push for a military strike on Syria following a suspected chemical attack.
According to The Independent, the images were believed to have been captured in Damascus in February 2009, come in stark contrast to comments Mr Kerry recently made about the Syrian president, describing him as a “thug” and drawing comparisons between Mr Assad and Adolf Hitler over their use of chemical weapons.
Mr Kerry was visiting the region when he was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He met with Mr Assad at least six times, according to The Daily Telegraph.
During the visit, he said in a press conference: “President Barack Obama’s administration considers Syria a key player in Washington’s efforts to revive the stalled Middle East peace process.
“Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.”
The restaurant pictured is understood to be The Naranj, one of the finest dining establishments in Damascus where Mr Kerry and Mr Assad were joined by their wives Teresa Heinz and Asma al-Assad, the First Lady of Syria.
Mr Kerry was also reportedly a strong supporter of the decision made by the US government to send an ambassador to Damascus in January 2011.