McCain becomes highest ranking U.S. official to visit rebels in Syria

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Republican Senator John McCain became on Monday the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Syria and meet with rebels, who have been engaged in a two-year fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, CNN reported.

Brian Rogers, McCain’s communications director, confirmed to CNN an earlier report by The Daily Beast that the senator had entered Syria through Turkey and remained there for several hours.

According to The Daily Beast, McCain – who has repeatedly called for supplying arms to Syrian rebels – met with Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army Salim Idris, along with other rebel leaders.

The report also said that rebels urged McCain during their meeting that the U.S. provide them with arms, adding that they also called for establishing no-fly zones.

McCain’s surprise visit to the war-torn country came before a scheduled meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss a planned conference aimed at ending the Syrian civil war.

At least 80,000 people have died since the March 2011 uprising against the Assad regime, according to the United Nations.

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