Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, slipped across the border between Turkey and Syria to visit with the rebel forces fighting the current government of Syria run by President Bashar al-Assad.
The visit is said to have lasted several hours before McCain returned to Turkey. McCain was the presidential nominee for the Republican Party in 2008. On Monday, he slipped into Syria unannounced to meet the rebels, but no information was released as to what his visit was about.
The visit came during a time that John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State and Sergei Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia pledged to work together to bring the rebels and Assad’s government to the negotiating table. There were also new reports that alleged chemical weapons had been used during the civil war.
The leader of one of the rebel groups told reporters that McCain’s secret rendezvous came during a critical phase for the rebels, who have increased their calls for support from the U.S. including the creation of a no-fly zone, air strikes and heavy weapons.
McCain is the highest ranking official from the U.S. to enter Syria since the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, entered the country in the north to meet with leaders of the opposition in early May.
It was not clear if Senator McCain, who is a vocal critic of the White House administration’s handling of the crisis in Syria, told leaders in the U.S. government about the plans he had to visit Syria.
No comment was given by the White House. A senior official from the state department with Kerry in Paris confirmed that in fact McCain did enter Syria, but referred any questions to McCain’s Washington office.