Confirmed: Secret talks between Assad officials and Western spies

Faisal MekdadBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The BBC says it has confirmed that secret meetings have been held between Western intelligence officials and senior members of the Syrian government, aimed at “combating radical Islamist groups” in Syria. In a report aired on Wednesday, the British news agency cited “informed sources” in confirming that Western intelligence officials had visited Syrian capital Damascus. While there, said the report, the officials held meetings with security agents loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The confirmation came a day after Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad, told BBC’s flagship Newsnight program that the Syrian government was cooperating with Western intelligence services against radical Islamist groups that have taken up arms against President Assad. The Syrian official told Newsnight that Western governments were “finally understanding” that there was “no alternative except al-Qaeda” to Assad’s rule in Syria, and that Western security officials were in secret contact with Damascus. Asked whether he was referring to officials from Western intelligence agencies, Mekdad said he would “not specify, but many of them have visited Damascus, yes”. He added that the al-Assad government was receiving regular requests from Western countries to have their diplomats —most of whom were withdrawn following the outbreak of the civil war— return to the Syrian capital. BBC reporters shared Mekdad’s comments with Khaled Saleh, a spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition —the political wing of the Free Syrian Army. He said that, if true, Mekdad’s claim “would show a clear contradiction between the words and actions of the Friends of Syria group”, said Saleh. It would mean, he added, that Western intelligence services would be collaborating with the Assad regime, which Western governments had “clearly identified […] as a source of terrorism in the region”. The BBC said the British government denied that its intelligence officials had cooperated with the Syrian government in any way.

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