US ambassador: 'Intervention not an option in Syria'
After the United States closed its embassy in Damascus this week, the US ambassador, Robert Ford, gave his first foreign interview since leaving Syria to FRANCE 24, calling for an end to the violence and for Bashar al-Assad to step down.
In an interview with FRANCE 24, the US ambassador to Syria has defended his country’s stance towards President Bashar al-Assad and called on the Syrian leader to end his brutal crackdown.
Robert Ford was pulled out of Syria earlier this week after the US closed the embassy because of security concerns.
In his first foreign interview since leaving the country, Ford told FRANCE 24’s Arabic channel the US were still seeking a “peaceful political" solution.
Ford said military intervention was not an option and denied suggestions that his country’s refusal to step in was encouraging Assad to increase the violence.
“We are not dithering. We are not hesitating. The US position is that we reject any kind of military intervention in Syria, let's be clear about that,” Ford told FRANCE 24
“We are striving for a peaceful political solution. Even the Syrian people do not want a military solution to this crisis.
“We believe Assad should step down, but at the end of the day the Syrian people will make the decision, not the US,” he said.
Ford said the focus of efforts to bring about an end to the violence relied on the Arab League, whose UN resolution aimed at ending the violence was controversially vetoed by Russia and China on February 4.
“What is absolutely paramount is that the Arab League make a decision on what they want exactly and we are then going to see how we should deal with that decision,” he added.
'Killings need to stop'
Hundreds of civilians in the besieged city of Homs have been killed in recent days as Assad’s forces bombard suburbs with heavy artillery.
The attack has outraged the international community, and Ford echoed US President Barack Obama’s calls for Assad to end the bloodshed.
Ford said the capital Damascus was gripped with "fear" over the ongoing crisis.
“The violence should cease right away. The killings of civilians without weapons in Homs should stop right away. The shellings are horrendous," he said.
The US closed its Damascus embassy after claiming the Syrian government had not done enough to guarantee security. Ford and all American embassy employees were pulled out of the country immediately.
In July, Ford provoked anger among the leaders of Syria’s regime with his controversial visit to see protesters in the city of Hama. The opposition was boosted by his presence, but Syrian authorities claimed it showed the US was attempting to meddle in their affairs.
Ford told FRANCE 24 the Americans would support increased numbers of Arab League observers returning to Syria and said his government would be increasing sanctions against those who are "bankrolling" Assad’s crackdown.
He also vowed to find funds to help deal with humanitarian fallout from the crisis.
On Friday, Ford took to social networking site Facebook to denounce the violent and “unequal” crackdown by Bashar al-Assad.
Posting a note on the embassy’s page, Ford condemned the regime’s “use of heavy weaponry…against residential neighbourhoods in Homs” despite no evidence of opposition fighters using similar weapons.
The attack on Homs marked “a new low for the Assad regime,” Ford said, adding, “We are intent on exposing the regime's brutal tactics for the world to see.”
He also posted a satellite image on the embassy’s Facebook account claiming to show the extent of the attacks by the Syrian regime against civilians in Homs.