A note from Ambassador Ford on recent events in Syria

February 9, 2012 at 5:52pm

Satellite image taken February 6, 2012

Satellite image taken February 6, 2012
 

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http://www.stateondemand.com/Regional-Issues/Africa/s/d8d56be3-4a96-4659-89e5-d8169a035d23/a/6f34cc0c-581e-4063-b91c-5aad9762741d?pgtype=m

 

First, like people around the world, my colleagues and friends are watching the video coming out of Homs and some of the other Syrian cities in the last days with horror and revulsion.  I hear the devastating stories about newborns in Homs dying in hospitals where electricity has been cut and when we see disturbing photos offering proof that the regime is using mortars and artillery against residential neighborhoods, all of us become even more concerned about the tragic outcome for Syrian civilians. The Arab League protocol, which received wide support from the international community, called for the Syrian military to withdraw from residential areas, to stop firing at peaceful protests and to release prisoners arrested due to the unrest.  The film coming out of Homs and elsewhere in Syria shows the Syrian government's real response.  And we have never heard of the armed opposition firing artillery for example.  It is odd to me that anyone would try to equate the actions of the Syrian army and armed opposition groups since the Syrian government consistently initiates the attacks on civilian areas, and it is using its heaviest weapons.  

I also want to say a word about our suspending the work of the American Embassy in Damascus.  I can say without exaggeration that February 6 was the most emotionally taxing day of my career as a Foreign Service Officer. Due to the elevated security risks we confronted in Syria, the Government of the United States had to suspend operations at our Embassy in Damascus, and I had to depart with my American colleagues and say goodbye to our Syrian colleagues and friends who face a very uncertain future. 

I left Damascus with immense sadness and regret—I wish our departure had not been necessary, but our Embassy, along with several other diplomatic missions in the area, was not sufficiently protected, given the new security concerns in the capital. We and those other embassies requested extra protection measures from the Syrian government, given the danger to both our citizens and the Syrian citizens that worked with and near us. Our concerns were not addressed.

As the United States’ Ambassador to Syria—a position that the Secretary of State and President are keeping me in —I will work with colleagues in Washington  to support a peaceful transition for the Syrian people.  We and our international partners hope to see a transition that reaches out and includes all of Syria's communities and that gives all Syrians hope for a better future.  My year in Syria tells me such a transition is possible, but not when one side constantly initiates attacks against people taking shelter in their homes.