Syria angry at US and France abmbassadorial visit to Hama
The Syrian foreign ministry summoned French and US ambassadors on Sunday to deliver a “strong protest” over their visit to the flashpoint central city of Hama last week.
“The ministry called in the US and French ambassadors to deliver a strong protest against their visit to Hamas without prior authoritization ... which constitutes a flagrant interference in Syria’s domestic affairs,” the SANA news agency said. “Their visit proves there is support and encouragement from abroad for destabilizing the country at a time when a national dialogue has just been launched aimed at building Syria’s future,” SANA said. “This visit violates the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which stipulates non-interference in host countries’ domestic affairs.”
Both US envoy Robert Ford and the French ambassador, Eric Chevallier, visited Hama on Thursday, which has been the center of demonstrations against the brutal rule of President Bashar Al Assad.
“The US ambassador met with saboteurs in Hama ... who erected checkpoints, cut traffic and prevented citizens from going to work,” an official with the Syrian interior ministry said.
The foreign ministry called Mr. Ford’s presence in Hama “obvious proof of the implication of the United States in the ongoing events, and of their attempts to increase tensions, which damage Syria’s security and stability.”
A US State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said she was “dismayed” by such criticism and stressed that Syrian authorities knew of the visit in advance.
Embassy press attaché J. J. Harder insisted Mr. Ford “certainly did not incite anyone to anything.”
“He met with average Syrian citizens and received a warm welcome,” Mr. Harder said on Friday.
Mr. Ford “wanted to see with his own eyes what was happening on the ground,” as “the lack of uninhibited access for international media makes this even more important.”
In recent days, Hama residents have largely sealed off their city, setting up makeshift checkpoints using burning tires and concrete blocks to keep security forces away.
The government seized on Mr. Ford’s visit to insist that foreign conspirators lay behind the unrest and called it proof the US was inciting violence in the Arab nation. The US is trying to “aggravate the situations which destabilize Syria,” SANA said on Friday.
Ms. Nuland called the claim “absolute rubbish.”
“The reason for his visit was to stand in solidarity with the right of the Syrian people to demonstrate peacefully,” she said.