U.S. and French officials slammed the Syrian government for failing to protect their countries’ diplomats Monday, following attacks by Assad loyalists on U.S. and French embassies in Damascus.
A U.S. State Department statement confirmed that both the embassy as well as the Chief of Mission residence were attacked, adding that no staff were injured or in imminent danger, however the embassy itself sustained damage.
Earlier Monday protesters loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad broke into the U.S. embassy compound in Damascus, and attempted to break into the French embassy as well, where guards opened live fire on protesters to prevent them from entering the compound. Syrian security did nothing to stop the attack, and three French nationals were wounded in the fray.
U.S. officials had asked that Syria increase security to protect embassy workers following two days of violent demonstrations in front of the embassy on Friday and Saturday, but to no avail.
"The Syrian authorities were slow to respond with the extra security measures that were needed", a U.S. official said Monday, adding that “the Syrian government has assured us that it will provide the protection required under the Vienna Convention, and we expect it to do so.”
The Vienna Convention mandates that a government protect diplomatic facilities. The official spoke out against Syrian authorities, saying that “on this, as in other areas such as protection of human rights, the Syrian government failed.”
The official condemned the Syrian government for failing to protect the U.S. embassy, demanding compensation for damages, calling on it to fulfill its obligations to its citizens as well.
We strongly condemn the Syrian government's refusal to protect our embassy, and demand compensation for damages. We call on the Syrian government to fulfill its obligations to its own citizens as well".
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned Syria’s handling of the situation as well, discussing the ruckus over the weekend in which vegetables and other things were thrown at the embassy and its workers. The Syrian Foreign Minister pledged to U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford that he would do a better job protecting American diplomats, a promise Nuland said he clearly did not make good on.
Nuland discussed the extent of the damage to the embassy, saying there were close to 300 protesters around the building at the height of the incident.
“Our main concern here,” Nuland said, “is that the Syrian government, rather than dealing with its own internal problems, and rather than addressing the grievances of its own people, is seeking to make distractions around our embassy.”
The French Foreign Ministry issued a statement Monday in a similar vein, slamming the Syrian government for doing nothing to stop the attack on its diplomats.
The statement said the attack was executed by “well-organized groups under the eyes of Syrian security forces, who were clearly not in a hurry to halt the violence”.
The ministry accused protesters of using a battering ram in an attempt to break down the doors of the French diplomatic mission, breaking windows, wounded three employees and destroying the French ambassador’s car.
The statement called the Syrian security forces’ failure to act on their diplomats’ behalf calling it a “flagrant breach of Syria’s obligations under international law”.
It then accused authorities in Damascus of attempting to distract attention from the “fundamental problem, which remains the end of the crackdown against the Syrian population and the implementation of democratic reforms”.
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