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Entries in Syrian Foreign Ministry (1)

Tuesday
Aug232011

Ambassador Ford Travels Restive Syrian City Despite Restrictions

U.S. Department of State(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- So how did Ambassador Robert Ford get out to Jassem when the Syrian government restricts his movements outside Damascus?

He didn't ask for permission.

"He informed the Syrian Foreign Ministry after the visit, and he made clear to them that the reason that he didn't inform them before the visit was because they haven't been approving any visits by anybody, anywhere. He has, over the last six weeks, three times requested permission to go to Aleppo, for example, and three times has been denied. So he chose to inform them afterward," State Dept. spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters.

Ford spent about four hours in Jassem and met with ordinary Syrians, including opposition leaders. He also followed up with them by phone later. He apparently saw lots of Syrian security forces everywhere.

"He was conscious of that, not wanting to make life difficult for those Syrians that he was speaking with, which is why he only stayed for four hours," Nuland said.

"His message back to them was that we stand with them, and that we admire the fact that their action has been completely peaceful. And their message back to him spoke of their desire to continue to work with other folks around Syria who share their interest in a democratic transition," she added.

So how did the regime respond to the trip?

"The reaction was relatively muted. They weren't surprised. They obviously knew where he was," Nuland said.

As a result of the Syrian restrictions on American diplomats, last month the U.S. placed reciprocal restrictions on Syrian diplomats in the U.S. who now have to request for permission to leave the beltway. Nuland said those requests have always been approved, including some Syrian diplomats who visited California last week.

The FBI had previously opened an investigation into alleged intimidation of Syrian Americans by Syrian diplomats who threatened to go after their relatives back in Syria.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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