The White House announced late Tuesday that after a break of five years, President Obama is nominating a US Ambassador to Syria.

If confirmed by the Senate, Robert Ford will be the first US Ambassador to Damascus since February 2005. That was when the US recalled its Ambassador in the wake of the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and speculation over Syrian involvement. The investigation into Hariri's death continues.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says Ford is "a highly accomplished diplomat with many years of experience in the Middle East. His appointment represents President Obama's commitment to use engagement to advance U.S. interests by improving communication with the Syrian government and people."

Gibbs adds, "If confirmed by the Senate, Ambassador Ford will engage the Syrian government on how we can enhance relations, while addressing areas of ongoing concern."

Here's some bio info on Ford, provided by the White House:

Robert Stephen Ford is presently Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Iraq. Mr. Ford is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Ambassador to Algeria on May 27, 2006, and sworn in on August 11, 2006. Mr. Ford served from 2004 until 2006 and again from 2008 until 2009 as the Political Counselor to the U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Iraq and was Deputy Chief of Mission in Bahrain from 2001 until 2004. Mr. Ford has also served in a number of other posts since entering the Foreign Service in 1985, including Izmir, Cairo, Algiers, and Yaoundé. Mr. Ford earned a Master of Arts in 1983 from Johns Hopkins University. He is a recipient of a number of Department of State awards, including the 2005 James Clement Dunn Award for outstanding work at the mid-level in the Foreign Service as well as three Superior Honor Awards and two Meritorious Honor awards. Mr. Ford speaks German, Turkish, French, and Arabic.