Latest update: 11/07/2011
France confronts Syria over embassy protests
The French foreign ministry summoned Syria’s ambassador to France late Sunday after demonstrators burned a French flag at the embassy in Damascus. The protest follows a visit by ambassador Eric Chevallier to the flashpoint town of Hama.
By NEWS WIRES (text)
AFP - The French foreign ministry on Sunday summoned Syria's ambassador to France over damage done to the French embassy and a consulate in Syria.
Syrian demonstrators caused the damage Saturday after France's ambassador to Syria visited the northern village of Hama, a stronghold of the anti-regime uprising.
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe's cabinet chief called the Syrian ambassador Lamia Shakkour to the foreign ministry to receive a "vigorous protest", ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in a statement.
Demonstrators gathered at the French embassy in Damascus and the consulate in Aleppo had burned French flags, the statement said.
They had thrown projectiles into the compounds, destroyed vehicles and caused "considerable damage", it added.
Syrian security services and police had done nothing to intervene "to prevent these unspeakable acts", Valero said.
The acts were a clear breach of Syria's obligations under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations" the statement added.
"We hold the Syrian authorities responsible for the security of our staff and our diplomatic missions," Valero added.
The demonstrations took place after a visit Thursday by French ambassador Eric Chevallier to Hama, besieged by Syrian forces cracking down on anti-government demonstrations.
The US ambassador Robert Ford also went this weekend to Hama to voice support for the local population on behalf of the United States.
Both diplomats were summoned by the Syrian foreign ministry, which called the visits a "blatant interference in Syrian internal affairs".
Valero objected to this incident too, which he said was undue interference in the work of the ambassador.
International agreement clearly gave diplomats freedom of movement in the country to which they were assigned, he said.
Paris had also taken the opportunity to remind the Syria ambassador of its ongoing crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Syria, Valero added.
"It is not acceptable that a government unleashes weapons against its population," he said.
Nor was it acceptable that the international community failed to respond do what it could to protect civilians "in the name of peace and security in the region," he added.
China and Russia have blocked a UN Security Council resolution on Syria denouncing the Syrian crackdown.