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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.