(LONDON) -- A British newspaper on Tuesday published a photograph of then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry having dinner in 2009 with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. The men were also accompanied by their wives. According to The Independent, Kerry, who was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, was seeking Assad's help in reviving stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
The paper quotes The Daily Telegraph as saying that Kerry met with Assad six times and that he also supported sending a U.S. ambassador to Syria.
At one point, Kerry said, "Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region".
The photograph of a friendly dinner and Kerry's statement are in marked contrast to his new position as secretary of state. Kerry has denounced Assad's regime and supports military action to punish the government's alleged use of chemical weapons two weeks ago that the Obama administration claims killed 1,400 people, including more than 425 children.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio