US tells Syria to protect diplomats as envoy returns

WASHINGTON- The White House on Tuesday warned Syria to uphold its obligation to protect diplomats after announcing it was sending US Ambassador Robert Ford back to Damascus to show solidarity with demonstrators.
"We expect the Syrian government to uphold its obligations to protect diplomatic personnel and facilities under the Vienna Convention and allow our Foreign Service officers to conduct their work free of intimidation or obstacles," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Ford left Syria abruptly in late October, after visiting protest hubs and drawing the ire of the Syrian government, because of what Washington described as security threats.
But the Obama administration announced he would return to Damascus on Tuesday evening, saying he had completed his consultations in Washington, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks in Europe with prominent Syrian dissidents.
"His return demonstrates our continued solidarity with the Syrian people and the value we place on Ford's efforts to engage Syrians on their efforts to achieve a peaceful and democratic transition," Carney said in a statement.
"We believe his presence in the country is among the most effective ways to send a message to the Syrian people that the United States stands in solidarity with them.
France also said on Tuesday that it had returned its ambassador to Syria, which has been rocked by months of violence against the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the latest manifestation of Arab Spring uprisings.
In late September Assad supporters tried to attack Ford and embassy staff as they visited a Syrian opposition leader in Damascus.
Pro-regime demonstrators damaged US vehicles and pelted the group with tomatoes but did not hurt Ford or his staff, Washington said.
The United States, which has called for Assad to step down, welcomes what it sees as the growing isolation of his regime, particularly after the 22-member Arab League and non-Arab Turkey imposed sanctions.
More than 4,000 people have been killed in the crackdown which erupted in March, according to United Nations estimates.

Tuesday, December 6th 2011

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