WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, wrapped up a visit on Monday to the Middle East to discuss the deteriorating situation in Syria, the ongoing threat posed by Iran, and the Middle East peace process. He visited Turkey, Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank.
In Turkey, Chairman Casey met with activists and leadership from the Syrian opposition to the Assad regime. He discussed the Syrian Democratic Transition Act which would enhance U.S. support for the Syrian people. In March, Senator Casey introduced this bill with Senator Marco Rubio. Senator Casey also visited the Kilis refugee camp on the border with Syria where he met with Syrian refugees and toured the facilities.
“I was honored to meet with refugees from the crisis in Syria and learn firsthand the terrible impact that the Assad regime has had on its own people. During this visit I reiterated my call for the U.S. to do more to stop the killing in Syria, including considering using our Patriot missile batteries in Turkey to intercept SCUD missiles in Syria, or take steps to degrade the Syrian air force, which continues to conduct strikes on innocent civilians.”
In Egypt, Chairman Casey met with the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense to talk about security in the Sinai and U.S-Egyptian efforts to counter terrorism. Senator Casey also raised the distressing reports of violence against women in Egypt with the Prime Minister.
“Egypt is facing an extremely challenging set of economic circumstances as it works to settle on terms with the International Monetary Fund. In this precarious economic and political environment, the U.S. should maintain a strong relationship with the Egyptian people. Our assistance relationship should be based on our shared commitment to counterterrorism and stability and prosperity in the Sinai region.”
Prior to arriving in Israel, Senator Casey spoke by phone with Secretary John Kerry to discuss regional dynamics and the Middle East Peace Process. In Jerusalem, Chairman Casey met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. In both meetings, he reiterated his commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, and the unbreakable US commitment to Israel's security. Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed gratitude for the Senator's efforts to pressure Iran through the years. Both the President and Prime Minister highlighted the importance of Iron Dome and thanked the American people for support of this critical defensive measure. The Senator also discussed the threat posed by Hezbollah, and the prospects for the Middle East peace process.
Chairman Casey was honored to meet with both the President and Prime Minister in advance of the solemn remembrance of the holocaust, Yom Hashoah.
Chairman Casey met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad and expressed his strong opposition to Palestinian efforts to short circuit the negotiation process by seeking recognition through international organizations. He urged the Palestinian leaders to return to the negotiating table without preconditions. Senator Casey expressed his support for a two state solution to the conflict with Israel and a Palestinian state living in peace and security. He emphasized that any agreement will have to account for Israel’s ongoing security concerns and would have to result in the full recognition of Israel’s right to exist.
Senator Casey also received a briefing on the Iron Dome missile and rocket defense system. He was fortunate to visit the battery on the second anniversary of the first successful Iron Dome interception (4/7/11). IDF troops provided a comprehensive briefing on the history of the system, its recent success in protecting Israeli citizens and infrastructure and an assessment of the ongoing threat posed by terrorist groups in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The US has provided more than $480 million in support for the program since 2011. Over the course of that time, Iron Dome has intercepted more than 550 rockets and missiles.