Entries in Travel Restrictions (4)


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


Syria and the US Place Restrictions on Each Others' Diplomats

U.S. Department of State(WASHINGTON) -- Travel restrictions for Syrian and American diplomats had been rumored before, but the Syrian ambassador and the State Department confirmed it Wednesday.
Following U.S. Ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford’s trip to the restive city of Hama, the Syrian regime placed restrictions on his and all American diplomats’ travel outside of the capital. In order to leave they would need the consent of the government. That permission is unlikely given the current environment as the regime launches all-out attacks on a number of cities.
The State Department took reciprocal action, as is common in these cases, restricting Syrian diplomats’ travel to the immediate area around Washington, D.C.
“The Syrian Embassy must submit a Travel Approval Form to the Department at least seven days prior to the intended date of departure, not including the day the proposed travel is scheduled to take place, or weekends, and federal holidays,” the State Department confirmed in a statement Wednesday.
Ambassador Ford had been planning to travel to Deir el Zour, another restive Syrian city, but was unable to do so. Last week the regime began its siege on the city.
The State Department has voiced its concern about the actions of the Syrian embassy since the uprising began. Earlier this year they accused some embassy staff of intimidating Syrian-Americans who were protesting here, and also of going after their families back in Syria.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cuba Welcomes US Easing Travel Rules, But Calls Policy 'Absurd'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HAVANA, Cuba) -- The Cuban government Monday welcomed the Obama administration's decision on Friday to ease restrictions on Americans who want to travel and send money back to Cuba, but noted with disdain that the embargo remained in place.

"If there was a true interest in expanding and easing the contacts between our two peoples, the United States should lift the blockade and the prohibition that makes of Cuba the only country that U.S. citizens cannot freely travel to," the Cuban foreign ministry said in a statement.

While calling last week's actions "positive," the ministry said the United States' restrictions on travel to the island are "absurd" and said the change "is also an expression of the admission of the failure of the U.S. policy against Cuba and that the U.S. government is seeking new ways to achieve its historical goal of dominating the Cuban people."

On Friday, President Obama rolled back some travel restrictions, in place since 2003, to allow students and religious groups to visit Cuba and to allow charter flights to the island to depart from all U.S. airports. The new guidelines also allow Americans to send up to $500 per quarter to non-family members in the communist country.

Friday's move also raised the ire of several lawmakers on Capitol Hill, particularly many Cuban-American members of Congress such as the new chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who said the "changes undermine U.S. foreign policy and security objectives and will bring economic benefits to the Cuban regime."

An ABC News/Washington Post poll in April 2009 found the majority of Americans -- 55 percent -- supported easing all travel restrictions to Cuba. The same poll also found 57 percent support for ending the trade embargo and 66 percent support for establishing diplomatic relations.

The Obama administration has taken steps to re-establish dialogue with the Cuban government. The two sides held the latest round of talks on migration in Havana last week.

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Obama Administration Continues to Loosen Rules Regarding Cuba

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House announced Friday afternoon that it would further ease travel and other restrictions regarding Cuba.

President Obama directed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to ease travel to Cuba for religious groups and students.  He also wants to allow more remittances -- up to $2,000 a year -- to flow to non-Communists in Cuba and allow all U.S. international airports to offer charter flights.  Currently only airports in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami offer such charter flights.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said in a statement that the “changes undermine U.S. foreign policy and security objectives and will bring economic benefits to the Cuban regime.”

Said Ros-Lehtinen, “Loosening these regulations will not help foster a pro-democracy environment in Cuba. These changes will not aid in ushering in respect for human rights. And they certainly will not help the Cuban people free themselves from the tyranny that engulfs them.”

But Francisco "Pepe" Hernandez, President of Cuban American National Foundation, applauded the move, saying the changes “will help to break the chains of dependency that the Castro regime has traditionally used to oppress those inside Cuba….These measures do not represent a concession to the Castro regime, but rather form part of a continuing series of unilateral measures that the US is taking which demonstrate a concern for the well-being of ordinary folks.

President Obama began easing restrictions regarding Cuba in April 2009, reversing the course set by President George W. Bush.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll from April 2009 found 55 percent support ending all travel restrictions to Cuba,  57 percent support ending the trade embargo, and 66 percent support establishing diplomatic relations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio ´╗┐

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