Condoleezza Rice met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem on the sidelines of the international donors conference in Egypt on Thursday, in the first such high-level contact between the countries in more than two years.
Though the conference was organized to coordinate international assistance for Iraq, the potential of an exchange between the US and its two prime antagonists, Iran and Syria, has steered the focus of anticipation for the event.
Reuters is now reporting that witnesses saw Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit escorting Moualem to a meeting with Rice.
A U.S. official told Reuters that Rice wanted to talk mainly about security on the Iraqi-Syrian border, not about Lebanon or attempts to prosecute those who killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005.
Rice emerged from the meeting after about 30 minutes to tell journalists that she had urged Syria to stem the flow of foreign fighters crossing their border into Iraq, saying she had let Moalem know that "action will speak louder than words".
Earlier Thursday, U.S. military spokesman Major-General William Caldwell told a Baghdad news conference that there had been a recent decline in insurgent transit through Syria. "There has been some movement by the Syrians ... there has been a reduction in the foreign fighter flow making their way into Iraq, as we have observed here over the last month," Caldwell said.
Expectations are still high that Rice could meet with Iranian representatives at the conference, though thus far they seem to have done little more than acknowledge each others' presence.
Rice and the Iranian foreign minister "exchanged pleasantries" over lunch, according to the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. "They said hello, that's about it," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.