By Justin Sink - 05/06/14 03:05 PM EDT
President Obama is expected to meet with Syrian opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba during his upcoming trip to Washington, a White House official said Tuesday.
Jarba will also meet with Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryDozens of Clinton meetings left off State schedule: report Overnight Cybersecurity: Sit-in disrupts cyber hearings | Trump tries to defend claim Clinton was hacked Kerry backs government access to encrypted data MORE during his visit, The Associated Press reported.
The diplomatic signals are intended to boost the standing of the Syrian Opposition Council, which has suffered recent losses in the ongoing and bloody civil war that has engulfed the country and left some 150,000 people dead.
The meetings come as work continues to remove and destroy chemical weapons from Syria as part of a deal brokered by Moscow with Syrian President Bashar Assad to avert a threatened U.S. military strike after a sarin attack on opposition fighters in the suburbs of Damascus.
Syria's chemical weapons stockpile is slated to be destroyed by June 30. But in the interim period, Assad loyalists have reportedly used poisonous chlorine in a bombing and made significant gains against opposition fighters.
The meeting also comes ahead of June presidential elections in which Assad is heavily expected to win a third seven-year term. Opposition activists, including Jarba, have dismissed the election as a fraud.