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

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani 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.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid