The Algerian minister for the Arab League has defended his visit recent to Syria amid criticism from the opposition parties.
“The visit aimed to show our support to the Syrian people in the face of terrorism which Algeria has long suffered from and to convey a message to our Syrian brothers that there is no substitute for national reconciliation, political solution and unity,” Abdelkader Messahel said.
Messahel, who is also minister for Maghreb Affairs and the African Union, said his visit to Damascus coincided with the 60th anniversary of Syria’s independence.
The Algerian minister further said that the visit was not part of any mediation efforts by his country to settle the Syrian crisis.
Algerian opposition parties have criticized Messahel’s visit to Damascus last week during which he held talks with a number of high-ranking Syrian officials, including President Bashar al-Assad and Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi.
During a meeting on April 25, Assad and Messahel discussed the “danger of terrorism and the need for unifying the efforts of all countries to fight this danger,” according to Syria’s official SANA news agency.
Messahel also expressed Algeria’s solidarity with people in Syria and their commitment to fight against terrorist groups.
Algeria has systematically abstained in Arab League votes slapping sanctions on Syria. Messahel’s visit to Damascus followed Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem’s visit to Algeria in March.
Last week, US State Senator Dick Black traveled to Damascus where he met with Assad and called for more support for the Syrian government.
In a departure from the official US stance on the conflict in Syria, the outspoken Republican voiced strong criticism against the Syrian opposition.
He described the foreign-backed opposition as “a group of terrorists fighting against the legitimate government and the Syrian people.”
“What is happening in Syria is terror. The issue is that terrorists are fighting against the Syrian people and their legitimate government,” he said upon arrival in Damascus.
“There is no such thing as 'moderate opposition' in this country,” he said.
“Many people misunderstand the situation in Syria, and refuse to believe that all the groups fighting against the Syrian regime are terror groups,” Black added.
“I know that the Syrian President Bashar Assad wants to have a modern state, where people would enjoy freedom of religion,” he said.
Black said Assad is a legitimate president, since “he was legally elected in 2014 elections.”
Blak, a part-time state senator of Virginia, also held meetings with other Syrian government officials, where he stressed his resolve to advocate better Damascus-Washington ties.
“I will be Syria's voice,” SANA quoted Black as saying.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has furthermore displaced over half of Syria’s pre-war population of about 23 million.
Damascus accuses Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar of funding and arming anti-Syria terrorist groups, including Daesh.