US Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a secret, four-day trip to the Arab country, she said Wednesday.
“When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so because I felt that it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we can achieve peace,” the Hawaiian congresswoman told CNN.
When asked whether she had reservations about meeting with Assad, Gabbard said there has to be a dialogue between the US and Syria.
“Whatever you think about President Assad, the fact is that he is the president of Syria,” she said. “In order for any peace agreement, in order for any possibility of a viable peace agreement to occur there has to be a conversation with him.”
“My commitment is on ending this war that has caused so much suffering to the Syrian people, to these children, to these families, many of whom I met on this trip,” Gabbard said.
Gabbard, who is a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committee, recently introduced legislation that would prohibit sending federal funds to nations that support terrorist groups.
“(The Syrians) asked me, ‘Why are the United States and its allies supporting these terror groups which are destroying Syria, when it was al Qaeda that attacked the United States on 9/11, not Syria.’ I didn’t have an answer to them.”
The US government claims it does not fund these groups and only provides assistance to so-called moderate rebels. However, Gabbard said the Syrians she met with told her that there are no moderate rebels in the country.
“Let the Syrian people themselves determine their future, not the United States, not some foreign country,” Gabbard said.