World Citizen: Hillary’s Handshake Launches a New Era

World Citizen: Hillary’s Handshake Launches a New Era

Something small but historic happened on the shores of the Red Sea on Monday. As delegates to the Palestinian donors' conference in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh gathered for lunch, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem was standing near the door to the banquet room. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walked by, and instead of staring straight ahead or finding a reason to turn in the opposite direction as an American diplomat might have done during the Bush era, she walked straight towards Moualem, shook his hand, and held a brief conversation.

That was the moment when Washington officially ended its cold-shoulder diplomacy towards Damascus. Moualem promptly told the press about the "short but very pleasant encounter," even as the State Department publicly downplayed the occasion.

With that brief and seemingly minor move, a major policy change by the new Obama administration shifted from the drawing board to the real world. The next day, the secretary of state announced the U.S. would send two senior officials to Syria to begin discussions on bilateral ties.

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