Obama returns US ambassador to Syria

After a four year absence, the US will once again have an ambassador in Syria.

The White House announced the plans Wednesday, saying the move reflects President Obama's commitment to be more "fully engaged" in the Arab world.

"This strongly reflects the administration's recognition of the role Syria plays, and the hope of the role that the Syrian government can play constructively to promote peace and stability in the region," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

According to Gibbs, since Obama took office in January there have been a series of meetings with administration officials and Syrian leadership.

The US pulled its ambassador to Syria in February 2005, expressing "profound outrage" over the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri who had protested Syrian influence in his country. Although Washington never directly accused Syria of carrying out the murder, the US had criticized Syria for its support of Hamas and Hezbollah, and for not doing enough to end the influx of militants into neighboring Iraq.

Jeffrey D. Feltman, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, informed Syria's ambassador to the United States of the decision on Tuesday night.