News / Middle East

US, Syria Clash Over Ambassador’s Hama Visit

Pro-Syrian President Bashar Assad protesters shout slogans as they protest against the visit of the U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford to the Syrian city of Hama, in front the U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria, July 8, 2011. Hundreds of thousands of Syria
Pro-Syrian President Bashar Assad protesters shout slogans as they protest against the visit of the U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford to the Syrian city of Hama, in front the U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria, July 8, 2011. Hundreds of thousands of Syria

The U.S. and Syrian governments exchanged harsh words Friday over a visit by U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford to the northern Syrian city of Hama, a flashpoint for anti-government protests. The State Department called Syria’s charge that Ford tried to incite violence “absolute rubbish.”

Ford was greeted by a cheering crowd and flowers as he drove Friday through Hama at the close of his overnight visit, and the episode - captured on the Internet video website YouTube - clearly angered Syrian authorities.

Related video: Behind the Wall - Syria

A Syrian Foreign Ministry statement said the American envoy incited what were termed “saboteurs” into acts of violence, and called the visit “obvious proof” of a U.S. role in the anti-government upheaval that has wracked Syria since March.

The comments drew a sharp rejoinder from State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

“Absolute rubbish. The reason for his visit was to stand in solidarity with the right of the Syrian people to demonstrate peacefully, and that’s what he did yesterday,” said Nuland.

Nuland brushed aside a Syrian charge that Ford had gone to Hama without permission, saying the U.S. Embassy in Damascus told the Syrian Defense Ministry in advance that a U.S. delegation would be going to Hama, and that his motorcade passed through a military checkpoint to get there.

“The notion that this was somehow a surprise to the Syrian government, or was in violation of their will doesn’t make any sense," she said. "And frankly what we would say back to the Syrian government is they really need to focus their attentions on what their citizens have to say, rather than spending their time picking at Ambassador Ford.”

Nuland noted that Ford’s visit to Hama coincided with one by the French Ambassador to Syria Eric Chevallier, and said while the two diplomats met there Thursday evening, their visits were not coordinated in advance.

Syria expert David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy welcomed the Ford visit to Hama as the first “unambiguous” demonstration of Obama administration support for the Syrian protest movement.

But he said the gesture will merely be seen in the region as free-lancing by the U.S. envoy, unless the administration starts taking a much tougher policy line toward the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“It is a significant statement for him to go to Hama and seemingly cast his lot, and the American lot, with the people of Syria, to provide some protection for the people of Hama, and to demonstrate where the United States’ sympathies and policies lie," said Schenker. "But this alone is not sufficient. It has to be accompanied by an unambiguous policy statement from Washington saying that we’re with the Syrian people, and that the Assad regime is no longer legitimate, if it ever was.”

The Obama administration to date has stopped short of flatly demanding Assad’s departure, saying he must implement reforms or “get out of the way.”

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid