GOP Lawmakers Pay Visit To War-Torn Syria

( — Three Republican lawmakers made a brief, unannounced visit to opposition-held northwest Syria last Sunday, marking the first trip to that country by US lawmakers in six years, the Associated Press reported.

Congressmen Ben Cline (R-VA), French Hill (R-AK), and Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI) made a one-hour stop in the region, where they urged the Biden administration to keep pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Rep. Hill told the Associated Press that the trip was just the latest in his several visits to the region this summer to urge the US and its allies in the area to continue to push for a political resolution to Syria’s civil war. He said his message was on behalf of Syrians who seek a representative government.

The conflict, which began more than a decade ago, has killed at least 300,000 civilians and displaced half of the country’s population.

The Republican lawmakers arrived in Syria from Turkey early Sunday, crossing into northern Aleppo. They were greeted by Syrian orphans from Wisdom House, the school created by the Syrian Emergency Task Force, the US-based opposition organization that arranged the lawmakers’ trip.

Constituents in Rep. Hill’s Arkansas district have been leading donors to Wisdom House.

During the roughly one-hour visit, the lawmakers met with opposition leaders as well as humanitarian leaders like White Helmets head Raed Saleh.

No public announcement was made ahead of Sunday’s visit due to security concerns.

The last known visit by a US lawmaker was in 2017, when the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ) visited US forces stationed in the Kurdish region in northeast Syria and met with opposition fighters.

That same year, in a move that prompted widespread criticism at home, former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) visited the Syrian capital of Damascus, where she met with President Assad.

Rep. Hill criticized the Biden administration for failing to pressure Assad into adopting political reforms. He told the Associated Press that Syria needs what the United States needs – “American leadership.”

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