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US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford (file) The US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, was withdrawn over fears for his safety in October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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  • Comment number 260.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 259.

    Everybody will agree that it's important to understand both sides of a conflict before demanding action that leads to further violence.

    If you're prepared to watch/listen to an alternative view from the BBC then please go here:

    http://www.sana.sy/eng/337/index.htm

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 258.

    WhyMe44, 256;

    John McCain:

    "[The rebels] believe in peaceful demonstration to bring about change."

    The same people who boast of killing 80 government soldiers at the weekend.

    "The facts on the ground are indisputable. Assad is slaughtering and massacring his own people. Torture, rape and murder are matters of doctrine."

    Indisputable in the sense of *fitting his worldview*.

  • Comment number 257.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 256.

    Lunchtime news R4:
    John McCain US Senator who carried out 23 bombing missions in Vietnam is now calling for bombing over Syria.

    Take a few minutes to listen to the vitriolic rantings of this man.
    His accusations of rape & torture were not and probably never will be confirmed.

    It lasts 7 minutes.
    Listen from 27 to 34mins.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01jhdgs/World_at_One_06_06_2012/

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 255.

    @254 'Bellatori'
    ~~
    Sadly, your prognosis of what to believe becomes a political decision may be true. However, it's not that clinical for those affected by losing their family in any conflict - on whatever side.

    Plus, you won't recognise a terrorist until it's too late. They have all kinds of guises; in all walks of life. The tragedy is, those who organise terrorism, only use other's children.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 254.

    253. Theophane
    The same argument applies the other way round. They don't call it 'The fog of war' for no good reason.

    The shelling of civilians by Assad's artillery was a barbaric atrocity. Such acts, sadly, then allow opposition forces to justify their own barbaric acts.

    The 'You did it first' argument is sterile. The dead do not understand such.

    Who you believe becomes a political decision.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 253.

    The Syrians deserve a hearing:

    Munthir Id in Al-Thawrah: "The barbaric atrocities committed by terrorist groups yesterday...are an attempt to turn the facts around as they always try to do before every Security Council report on Syria or UN meeting on Syria or whenever a UN official is visiting Syria in order to market their Satanic ideology that the Syrian Arab Army is behind this massacre."

  • rate this
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    Comment number 252.

    250. stoneyfarmer How about a 70 ton 12 metre tank?

    A 70 tonne 12 metre tank did not kill the women and children in the recent massacre. Assad says it was terrorists, the SLA says it was Assad's militia. Satellite images will not help.
    The west will support the SLA because it suits their purpose and Russia (& China?) Assad because it suits theirs.

    What the truth is, goodness only knows.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 251.

    248. Theophane Are they ... stupid? Not in my book either.
    There is nothing stupid about repeatedly calling a group 'terrorists'. Do it often enough and it becomes self justifying. You have to remember who his audience is. Not the West but Russia & China. It gives them a cop out. Dress it up with a few militia staged atrocities and Russia is on board at least.
    Is it true? Could be but proof?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 250.

    246. Bellatori said:
    "The resolution of satellites publicly available is 50cm. The best available to the US is 25cm .... What will you see? Absolutely no useful detail in terms of the faces, the cap badges and uniforms that the terrorists and/or militia (depends which side you are on) wear so you can see who did what."

    How about a 70 ton 12 metre tank?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 249.

    @244 'Palestine'
    ~~
    Every aware citizen is very concerned - from all nations - about this situation in Syria. In fact, everywhere in the world, ordinary people are sick and tired of how their leaders/government let them down - over and over again.

    It's too easy to start a fight that runs out of control. Ordinary people always suffer from squabbling egotistical children who purport to be adults.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 248.

    242.Bellatori

    "Rebadging the process as Terrorist groups destabilising the country is a better option. This latter requires bodies of soldiers and civilians apparently killed by these 'terrorists'."

    Except that worldwide public opinion has already been primed for stories that depict the regime as inhuman. Are they both evil *and* stupid? From personal experience - they are neither.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 247.

    Gray @ 245 ==
    Everyone who values life more than they value cheap consumer goods ought to stop buying stuff made in China & stuff made using Russian oil until Assad stops killing his own people.

    ====

    Before offering a solution it is always wise to clearly define your objective.

    So unless you have evidence that Assad is killing fellow countrymen, it's pointless offering your solution.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 246.

    The resolution of satellites publicly available is 50cm. The best available to the US is 25cm but lets assume they are lying and its 10cm or even 5. Take any picture and pixelate it into 10cm squares. What will you see? Absolutely no useful detail in terms of the faces, the cap badges and uniforms that the terrorists and/or militia (depends which side you are on) wear so you can see who did what.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 245.

    We can help achieve peace in Syria without a military campaign without our Governments even. Everyone who values life more than they value cheap consumer goods ought to stop buying stuff made in China & stuff made using Russian oil until Assad stops killing his own people.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 244.

    The syrian problem is connected to the Israelis security and safety.
    It is a lot of concern that the united state and the western be careful on the way they deal with this issue. It is a lose lose situation.
    But the world can't stand still watching unprotected civilians being killed and not do nothing!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 243.

    237. coram-populo-2010 said:
    Don't forget that many countries have satellites filming the planet. Plus, within most countries, there will be coverts imbedded from most countries.

    I agree

    That's why the absence of proof, particularly of the Houla massacre is puzzling.

    The image often referred to of "tank tracks" & superimposed labels suggesting where army positions were is laughable - war games.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 242.

    240. stoneyfarmer Political advantage - interesting - trouble explaining that one. Nope!
    Repression of a general rising of the populace is politically difficult to defend. Rebadging the process as Terrorist groups destabilising the country is a better option. This latter requires bodies of soldiers and civilians apparently killed by these 'terrorists'.
    Did it happen? Who really knows the truth.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 241.

    Why would Salafist/Sunni terrorists carry out a massacre of innocent civilians?

    To reinforce the perception, peddled by Auntie Beeb as much as by anyone else, that Assad's regime is carrying out routine atrocities. In this way they can hope to get more money, more weapons, more recruits, and more political but also potentially military support from the feeble-minded western powers.

    2.

 

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