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US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford (file) The US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, was withdrawn over fears for his safety in October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
    +1

    Comment number 200.

    @199 'CMAenergy'
    ~~
    Sounds like a Tea Party Republican - if it quacks - shoot it.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 199.

    Why is it a fool will rant and rave and accuse another?
    And it seems those who support them are of the same group.
    It seems a regime will never let go until death.
    it's a known fact the past is a good predictor of future behaviour.
    You know what has to be done.
    Some times it's better to say nothing and just do it.
    What walks like a duck and quacks like a duck is usually a duck

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 198.

    @195 'Amr'
    ~~
    How do you square the circle of your previous posts on complying with holy books, and yet unable to find peace within yourself?

    I can understand anger over wars, that we all suffer from, but war is still a mixture of resources that mankind have always fought over - plus religion on top? Dare I say, that areas, of some religions, conveniently judge others by their ethnicity as well?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 197.

    "Assad must go" say Western powers - but they mean Assad personally - that is, they are even ready to agree (as a concession for Russia and China) that his "inner circle" will continue the government, at least for a while. But they do not explain why the person of Assad is so important for them... they just call him "dictator" - but surely he isn't the hardest one among his "inner circle".

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 196.

    @59 'Controlled Pair'
    ~~
    You mention 'Arabs' in your post. How do you identify an Arab exactly? Personally, I wouldn't know - so how could you? Do you have an insurlar view of ethnicity or origins? Check out your own DNA and you may be surprised at your ancient ancestor's past.

    It's not straightforward - even if you live in isolated 'communities' there is a past that comes from somewhere else.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 195.

    #188.Ed80
    (I googled "Omar Bakhri Mohammed")
    "AlQaeda's worldwide caliphate"! Isn't this another trick of the regime to convince the West to turn a blind eye to the massacres it's committing?
    On the other hand, if Saudi Arabia is funding Syrians to defend themselves, that's something I'd appreciate.
    But, if Iranians are helping the regime, which side would the West support?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 194.

    @warren
    The west has treated Syria as it deserves to be treated. It is a despotic regime who oppresses it's people and are controlled by a prestigous religious cult minority. Not only have they no freedom, but I have seen raw videos out of syria before media censorship; basically "death squads" indiscriminately shooting protesters including kids in cold blood.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 193.

    @191 'Warren'
    ~~
    Look at Syria's borders on a map. Surrounded by countries with their own problems.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 192.

    A story on the partition and forming of Pakistan and the intransigence of Mr Jinnah who insisted on statehood for Pakistan despite all Mr Gandhi's arguments again it, needs to be told.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 191.

    Can anyone truly blame the Syrians for what they did by expelling Western diplomats? The West has treated Syria like an outcast and misrepresented the facts about that country. This bloodshed does need to end but being hostile is no way to do it! Let the Russians or the Chinese help if they can.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 190.

    So much talent, education and potential innovation disrupted or wasted by conflict and war.

    Women, everywhere, need to fight harder to stop extremism - in all it's forms. No, I'm not naive - I know how the system works - and it took generations for the world to reach this tipping point that leaves women more vulnerable and marginalised than ever.

    I will direct my criticism at ALL religions.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 189.

    Ironically the Sunni terrorists intent on whipping up a civil war, with or without western connivance, in Syria, using a formula that was brutally effective in the Balkans, have absolutely nothing to do with Israel. The FSA terrorists have much more in common with Hamas, which is why Hamas leaders were moving out of Damascus last year.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 188.

    184.Amr

    Try telling Omar Bakhri Mohammed that what the Syrians want has anything to do with this. I saw him on RT telling them that he is recruiting Sunnis from everywhere, Libya to Pakistan to start AlQaeda's worldwide caliphate under Sharia law in Syria. In my western opinion anything is better, even death, than what is being funded by Saudi Arabia to replace Assad

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 187.

    From Crowley's 'tragedy' of an article;

    "...Russia must be at the table for a political transition to occur.

    Now back in the game, Mr Putin appears to be in no hurry to deal. Whether or not this is good for Russia, it is tragic for the Syrian people."

    ...assuming Assad's regime really has suddenly taken to the idea of massacring its own civilians without provocation. Witless drivel.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 186.

    Men with guns feel powerful - tearing around and imposing their weaponry power on each other.

    That's never enough for them, is it? They subject the same, and worse on women and children.

    If they had to face each other again with ancient weapons, they would be revealed as the cowards they are.

    What is it with men? Why so special? Last chance to finally grow up and stop playing games!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 185.

    Heard one reporter finally say the obvious today. Russia and China will never agree to any new resolution in these sort of situations after being conned over Libya.
    Gross misuse by 'western' powers to back one side in a civil war had to have its political come uppance.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 184.

    #180.Ed80
    Syrians, including the Sunni majoirty, have been fighting for their rights for a long time. Apparently, you prefer the majority of a country to be enslaved by a dictator.
    "a religious war against the Shia, Christian and Alawite population"
    This is not a religious war & it's not a war against Christian population. Simply, Syrians want Syria to be what Syrians really want.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 183.

    "'A slow-motion tragedy in Syria'
    By PJ Crowley
    Former US Assistant Secretary of State" BBC 'Features and Analysis'

    This shameless piece of US propaganda could provide clues as to why the, ahem, "British" Broadcasting Corporation's stance is a mirror image of the US administration's. It's all about adulation of the 'sacred cow' that is the 'special relationship'. US/Britain: Lips/teeth.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 182.

    "... They may also learn why liberal views of the world, the result of many centuries of gradual modification of European society, are unlikely to take root in Islamic societies, ...."

    from Under Eastern Eyes, by R.W. Southern
    ( review on Muslim Discovery of Europe, by B.Lewis
    in The York Review of Books, November 4, 1982)

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 181.

    Send the marines in.

 

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