Syria declares Western ambassadors unwelcome

US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford (file) The US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, was withdrawn over fears for his safety in October

Syria has declared as unwelcome the ambassadors of several Western states, a week after governments around the world expelled its top diplomats.

The US, UK, French and Turkish envoys were among those designated "personae non gratae". Many have already left.

President Bashar al-Assad has blamed outside powers for Syria's divisions.

Meanwhile, the UN has said the Syrian government has agreed to allow aid agencies to enter the four provinces that have seen the most violence.

"This agreement was secured in Damascus with the government there, in writing," John Ging, the director of operations for UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told reporters in Geneva after a meeting of the Syrian Humanitarian Forum.

"Freedom of movement, unimpeded access for humanitarian action within Syria, is what it's all about now. The good faith of the [Syrian] government will be tested on this issue today, tomorrow and every day," he added.

Procedures would be streamlined for granting visas to staff from nine UN agencies and seven international NGOs, Mr Ging said. The UN will open field offices in the provinces of Deraa, Deir al-Zour, Homs and Idlib.

Annan's six-point peace plan

1. Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people

2. UN-supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians

3. All parties to ensure provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and implement a daily two-hour humanitarian pause

4. Authorities to intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons

5. Authorities to ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists

6. Authorities to respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully

The UN has been trying for months to get its aid workers into Syria, but with little success, reports the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva. Visa applications have been delayed or denied, and supplies of aid blocked.

The UN estimates that one million people are in need of assistance inside Syria, and that the number will likely increase after further assessments.

In a separate development, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, urged the international community to continue to support the peace plan negotiated by the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, Chinese state TV said.

But Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said Gulf Arab states had "begun to lose hope in the possibility of reaching a solution... within this framework".

Mr Annan is to address the UN Security Council in New York on Thursday. He is believed to want a "serious review" of efforts to implement his plan.

'Importance of dialogue'

Last week, at least 13 countries expelled top Syrian diplomats in protest at the massacre of more than 100 people, including 49 children, in the Houla area of Homs province. Turkey expelled all Syrian embassy staff.

Start Quote

We hope the countries that initiated these steps will adopt those principles, which would allow relations to return to normal again”

End Quote Syrian foreign ministry

In what it described as a reciprocal move on Tuesday, the Syrian government announced that 17 diplomats from the US, UK, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany and Canada were now considered "personae non gratae".

All Turkish diplomatic staff were also declared unwelcome.

"The Syrian Arab Republic still believes in the importance of dialogue based on principles of equality and mutual respect," a foreign ministry statement said.

"We hope the countries that initiated these steps will adopt those principles, which would allow relations to return to normal again."

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says it will be a long time before the Western states are prepared to re-establish diplomatic ties.

US ambassador Robert Ford was called back to Washington in October over fears for his safety, while all British embassy staff were withdrawn in March on security grounds.

France also closed its embassy that month in protest at the "scandalous" repression of dissent by the government.

Heavy clashes

On Sunday, President Assad told parliament that Syria was facing not an internal crisis but an external war, waged against it because of its support for resistance to Israel.

Locals inspect the remains of a destroyed Syrian army tank in the town of Ariha (4 June 2012) There have been fierce clashes between soldiers and armed rebels in Syria in recent days

In his first public comment on the massacre at Houla, in which 108 people were killed on 25 May, Mr Assad said that even "monsters" would not have carried out such an act and it should prompt an end to bloodshed.

Survivors and human rights groups blamed the army and shabiha militiamen allied to the government for the deaths.

Tuesday's diplomatic move by the government came as activists said at least 34 people had been killed in violence across the country.

At least 15 soldiers were killed and dozens wounded, while four rebel fighters also died in fighting in several towns and villages in the Mediterranean province of Latakia, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"These are the heaviest clashes so far in the area since the beginning of the revolution," Rami Abdul Rahman, the head of the UK-based group, told the Reuters news agency.

Several villages south-west of the central city of Homs earlier came under intense army artillery- and mortar-fire, leaving five people dead, according to the Local Co-ordination Committees, an activist network.

Four civilians were also reportedly killed overnight in a "huge military operation" in Kafrouaid, a village in the northern province of Idlib.

The UN says at least 9,000 people have died since pro-democracy protests began in March 2011. In April, the Syrian government reported that 6,143 Syrian citizens had been killed by "terrorist groups".

Map of Syria showing the location of refugee camps

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  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Summary: Israel is following tripartite plan to topple Assad, destroy Syria. Guidance from Haim Saban: 1. make donations to political parties (incl. funding/arming rebels & Wahhabi terrorists in Syria) 2. establish think tanks (eg setting up centers such as in Washington & Doha, to formulate strategies to bring down Assad) & 3. control media (prevent media from delivering unbiased reports).

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    79. Michael

    you poor brainwashed parrot

    NATO, backed by you, destroyed Libya and killed thousands of innocents, you have that blood on your hands, before invasion Libya had the best debt to GDP of any nation

    NATO installed a libyan who lived in america for over 10 years as oil and finance minister, he has an american accent wake up

    Syria's main export is oil also, stop the lies

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Ask yourselves: what *motive* do government forces have to carry out a door-to-door massacre of innocent civilians, as tragically appears to have happened at Houla? On the other hand, Islamic militants found this strategy to be very profitable in Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere; and it would appear to be having the desired effect, i.e. hardening western opinion against Assad, again on this occasion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Turkey is not EU; it has balls. And a formidable army (as usual).
    I hope Assad knows what Turkey is capable of if push comes to shove.

    I agree, but I think Assad's regime is hoping Turkey will not get militarily involved because it wants full EU membership.

    Not anymore. Turkey knows itl'll never be admitted to EU. Moreover: EU is collapsing as we speak.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    95. Bellatori

    "Stalin, Hitler, Mao to name but a few, all used the same argument. How quickly 'those of the many' translate to self-interest."

    If Stalin, Hitler, and Mao brushed their teeth, would dental hygiene become a bad thing too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    92. Arnold55555
    Stalin, Hitler, Mao to name but a few, all used the same argument. How quickly 'those of the many' translate to self-interest.

    ...and when, like at Toxteth et al, the council estate riots over the appalling conditions they feel they are living in and threaten burn down your street you won't be looking for the Police to intervene because they are the many and you the few.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Israeli footprints are all over Syria. Next is Shadi Hamid who currently serves as Director of research at The Brookings Doha Center & Fellow at the Zionist Saban Center for ME Policy at Brookings Institution. These centers are tasked with formulating strategies, exploring effective ways to destabilize ANY regime in ME which proves hostile or detrimental to interests of Israel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Why does it matter? We have no obligation or reason to stop it. Their land their choices. Chivalry has no place, all that counts is winning. Only losers are supposed war criminals and such nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.


    "Eventually you realise that all lives matter."

    It is precisely because all lives matter that the interests of the few must be subjugated to those of the many.

    Eventually you realise that.

    And I find it quite easy to belittle lives 200 yards from my home. There's a council estate up there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    "Despots of the world unite!

    As always, behind Russia and China.:"

    Again, if you remove despots like Qaddafi and Assad on humanitarian grounds you create a legal precedent for removing despots massively violating human rights like Hujintao and Putin.

    Beijing and Moscow regimes just cannot afford it. Simple as that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    84. Arnold55555 ...

    But not, I am sure, more than your life.

    It is very easy to belittle the value of human lives that are thousands of miles off. They are only a statistic after all. What you have to ask yourself is 'At what point does it matter?' Your mother? Your brother? Your child? And what about your next door neighbour?

    Eventually you realise that all lives matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    The 'Jihadist' strategy of murdering civilians to provoke government reprisals worked especially well in the Balkans; and a year or two later, many of the same individuals were carrying out the September 11th attacks. What was it George W. Bush said? - "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me..."

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Charles Taylor was sent to 50 years in prison for supplying arms to rebels in Sierra Leone, Will the west leaders and there Arab colleague be sent to the International court as well for supporting the rebels in Syria.

    The West can do what they want under the pretense of UN, when was the last time one was sanction by UN? Iran get sanction for bomb they don’t have but US have 1000 but no action

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Director of Saban Centre is pro-Israel lobbyist Martin Indyk - founded Washington Institute for Near East Policy, AIPAC spinoff to counter Brooking Institution criticized for not being pro-Israel enough. Former US ambassador to Israel, Australian-born Jew, Indyk was A/Secretary of State. He admits: US is working closely with Turkey & Saudi Arabia against Syria.
    What good would be ambassadors?

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Turkey is not EU; it has balls. And a formidable army (as usual).
    I hope Assad knows what Turkey is capable of if push comes to shove.

    I agree, but I think Assad's regime is hoping Turkey will not get militarily involved because it wants full EU membership. If it acts on its own it may lose that chance. However the more refugees it has to take might just push Turkey too far.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    I must say it comes to something when your average tribal despot can't have some peace and quiet to get on with his tyranny.

    All this outside ineterference is enough to put a chap off his game.

    Despots of the world unite!

    As always, behind Russia and China.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    76 "Are you arguing that the need for stability is more important than the rights of the majority of Syrians; more important than the lives of murdered children?"


  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    TRe#71 "Still, the more I know how the West values some lives more than others, even among themselves, &the more I hear about innocents murdered in Afghanistan &Palestine the happier I am to be a Muslim."

    If by 'innocents' you mean Taliban and al-Qaeda top thugs in Pakistani Waziristan or in Yemen I have to confess I value lives of innocent American civilians higher. Just like I did on 9/11.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    71. Amr .. the more I hear about innocents murdered in Afghanistan &Palestine the happier I am to be a Muslim..

    Why, I wonder? Are you claiming that innocents are only killed by members of other faiths? I cannot think of a faith, offhand, that hasn't at one time or another, had its hands red in the blood of innocents.

    I really would like to understand your comment

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    #67 & #63 have hit the nail on the head
    #65 check your facts, Syria only contains 0.45% of OAPEC's reserves, it's not a major oil producer and never will be.

    The UN was set up to after WW2 to prevent war and to ensure genocide never happens again. To support this goal and reject regime change outright is untenable. Would Putin have let Hitler remain in charge and just push the Nazi's back?


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