Syria's FM says his country is keen to develop relations with U.S., France
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al- Mouallem said Wednesday that Syria didn't fire the ambassadors of the U.S. and France as a gesture that "we want to develop our relations with the two countries" and so the two countries "would review their attitudes toward Syria."
Al-Mouallem's remarks came during a symposium held Wednesday at Damascus University, in which he said "we wish that we don't have to impose restrictions on the movement of the two ambassadors in Syria."
Al-Mouallem's statement came in response to the unauthorized visit of the U.S. and France ambassadors to the focal point city of Hama, Xinhua reported.
The visit of the ambassadors has triggered resentment by Syrian authorities, which accused them of fueling the protests in that troubled area.
Al-Mouallem also said "the Qatari ambassador to Syria left the country unannounced." adding that Syria is keen to maintain good relations with Qatar despite what the Doha-based al-Jazeera TV is doing in its media campaign against Syria.
"This is a summer cloud in the Arab relations," Al-Mouallem elaborated.
On the relations with neighboring Lebanon, al-Mouallem said Syria didn't interfere in the formation of the Lebanese government, saying "the country has a new parliament and new government."
He rejected former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri's statement in which al-Hariri said that Syrian President Bashar al- Assad and Hasan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Lebanese Hezbollah, had let him out of the government.
"I don't comment on al-Hariri's remarks... I represent the Syrian government and al-Hariri represents a political party," Al- Mouallem elaborated.
He brushed aside any dispute with the Palestinian Hamas movement saying "these rumors are baseless and we are on constant coordination with Hamas." "It's a big mistake to engage in a media war with other Arab countries and whosoever does that do not see beyond his nose," said al-Mouallem.
He made it clear that the recent crisis in Syria has a political dimension which its gravity is reflected in the foreign intervention in the country's affairs.
The White House on Tuesday vowed to continue to work with its international partners to increase pressure on the Syrian government.
"We've made clear that President Assad has lost legitimacy. He had the opportunity to lead the transition and he did not take it and he's lost legitimacy because of it," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
Carney urged Syria to halt violence and pull its security forces from Hama and other cities so that "a genuine transition to democracy can take place."
Meanwhile, media sources said Wednesday the U.S. embassy had suspended its consular services after the recent attacks by government loyalists on its compounds last week.
Syria has been in unrest since mid March when anti-government protests broke out in the southern province of Daraa and spread to other cities. The Syrian authorities blamed the unrest on "armed groups and foreign conspiracy" and stressed that it would track down gunmen who have intimidated people and damaged public and private properties.
The Syrian government said 1,200 members of security forces and army personnel had died since the eruption of protests. According to activists, more than 1,600 civilians have died and some 10,000 have been detained.