US-Syria ties nosedive after embassy attacks


Syria’s ties with Washington and Paris nosedived on Tuesday, four months into a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, after pro-regime crowds attacked the embassies of the two Western states.
A regime-backed “national dialogue” on reforms, meanwhile, wrapped up a three-day meeting in Damascus with calls for the release of all political detainees. The Syrian foreign ministry accused US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of “incitement” after she maintained Assad had lost legitimacy and the right to remain in power. “Syria vigorously condemns the remarks of the US secretary of state that amount to further proof of the flagrant interference of the United States in the internal affairs of Syria,” it said in a statement.
“These remarks are an act of incitement aimed at continuing the internal crisis and for objectives which do not serve the interests of the Syrian people or their legitimate ambitions,” it said. Clinton’s remarks on Monday came after the French and US embassies in Damascus were targeted. “President Assad is not indispensable and we have absolutely nothing invested in him… remaining in power,” the secretary of state said. “From our perspective, he has lost legitimacy.”
About 200 delegates on Tuesday closed talks on reform boycotted by the opposition pledging to work with Syrian parties inside and outside the country to prepare a “national dialogue conference as soon as possible.”
“Dialogue is the only way to halt the crisis,” they said in a final statement, adding the opposition was an “integral part” of Syria’s political life. Independent MPs and members of Assad’s Baath party which has been in power since 1963 took part in the talks, attended by Vice President Faruq al-Sharaa. Opposition figures boycotted in protest at the continuing deadly crackdown by security forces.
Also on Tuesday, pro-democracy activists on their Facebook page said they opposed any Libya-style military intervention and called for greater economic and political pressure on the leadership in Damascus. They also called for Assad to be referred to the International Criminal Court, on their Syrian Revolution 2011 page which has been an engine of the popular revolt against Assad’s regime. Activists say 1,300 civilians have been killed and 12,000 arrested since mid-March.
Mobs besieged the US and French embassies after the ambassadors of the two Western countries last week travelled to the flashpoint protest city of Hama, north of the capital. Paris on Tuesday renewed its demand that the United Nations Security Council take a stance on the crisis in Syria.
“France and other European countries have submitted a proposed resolution to the UN Security Council, which has been blocked by Russia and China,” Prime Minister Francois Fillon said in a radio interview. “This is no longer acceptable,” he said, branding the attack on his government’s Damascus embassy, in which three French personnel were wounded, “extremely violent” and warning that Assad’s regime was losing its grip.