Swaraj's visit to Syria deferred due to rise in tension

Swaraj's visit to Syria deferred due to rise in tension

A scheduled visit by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to strife-torn Syria next week has been deferred due to escalating tension in the country. PTI file photo

India on Saturday called off its External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's proposed visit to Syria – ostensibly in view of the escalating tension between the United States and Russia over the war-torn nation.

Swaraj would have been the highest dignitary from India to visit Syria after the civil war broke out in the West Asian nation in March 2011. New Delhi, however, called it off, after the soldiers of America's Marine Corps started a live-fire drill at Tanf in southern Syria in response to Russia's threat to send its troops into a garrison of the United States armed forces in the region in pursuit of the terrorists.

External Affairs Minister was scheduled to have a meeting with Syrian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem during her visit to Damascus next week. She was to lead a delegation comprising government officials and industry leaders. She was also expected to call on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Her visit was planned in response to an invitation by the Government of Syria and it would have coincided with the Damascus International Fair, which President Assad's Government is holding in the capital city, largely to underscore its success in fighting the Islamic State terrorists and the rebels as well as to highlight the progress towards restoring normalcy in the country.

“External Affairs Minister's visit to Syria has been deferred due to the prevailing situation in that country. Fresh dates will be decided in mutual consultation with the Syrian side,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said on Saturday.

Swaraj dropped her plan to visit Damascus just two days after she and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had a 2+2 dialogue with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James N Mattis.

The US of late warned Russia and Syria against carrying out an offensive in Idlib, which is one of the last strongholds of the rebels.