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July 11, 2011

UN Security Council Condemns Damascus Embassy Attacks

The U.N. Security Council has condemned Monday’s attacks by demonstrators on the U.S. and French embassies in Damascus, amid continued sharp exchanges between the United States and Syria. U.S. officials have credited Syria with tightening embassy security.

The U.N. Security Council, in a written statement, condemned the embassy attacks “in the strongest terms” and called on Syrian authorities to protect diplomatic property and personnel.

Crowds of pro-government Syrian demonstrators scaled the walls of the U.S. and French embassies Monday, breaking windows and security equipment, and spray-painting slogans.

U.S. and French officials said the attacks were officially inspired.  Syria maintains they were spontaneous actions by crowds upset by visits last week by the two countries’ ambassadors to Hama, a center of protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The attacks prompted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to say that Mr. Assad has “lost legitimacy” and is not indispensable.

Those comments were echoed Tuesday by White House Spokesman Jay Carney, who said the Syrian President had “passed up” an opportunity to lead a democratic transition in his country, and that his loss of legitimacy is a matter of “factual analysis.” “It doesn’t matter nearly as much that he’s lost legitimacy in our eyes. This is a matter of an analysis that he has lost legitimacy in the eyes of the Syrian people who are increasingly demanding change. There’s really a growing consensus among the Syrian people that this transition needs to take place, and that President Assad is not going to lead it," he said.

The Syrian state news agency said the Clinton remarks, reiterated by the White House, were further proof of what was termed “fragrant intervention” by the United States in Syrian affairs.

Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja’afari, accused the United States and France of hypocrisy - in condoning anti-government protests in Syria while labeling pro-government demonstrators thugs.

“The two ambassadors of these countries have preached, around the clock, their governments’ encouragement to the demonstrators to demonstrate peacefully in Syria as long as these peaceful demonstrations were addressed against the government. But when these demonstrators demonstrate in front of their embassies in Damascus, because of the interference of their two ambassadors in our internal affairs in the city of Hama, then these demonstrators become thugs and mobs," he said.

The Syrian envoy, speaking after the Security Council meeting on the embassy attacks, said authorities in Damascus had done all they could to protect the missions, and said that a number of demonstrators had been detained for questioning in the incidents.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. embassy was back in operation Tuesday with an increased Syrian security presence in the area.

“We have been able, working with the Syrians, to upgrade security, get some of the repairs made that needed to be made, particularly with regard to windows and cameras and those things. The Syrians returned the American flag that had been taken down yesterday. We in turn returned the Syrian flag that had on our gates," she said.

Nuland said U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford met with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad Tuesday and that the conversation had a “much more collaborative tone” than previous contacts.

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