Syrian warns diplomats not to travel outside Damascus

Arab World Materials 21 July 2011 02:35 (UTC +04:00)

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem warned French and US diplomats on Wednesday not to travel outside Damascus, following their visits earlier this month to the central city of Hama, dpa reported.

"If the US and French envoys disobey the order, Syria will ban all diplomats from leaving Damascus," Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said during a lecture at Damascus University. "We did not expel the two ambassadors because we want the relations to develop in the future."

He warned that if ambassadors repeat such trips, "we will impose a ban preventing (diplomats) from going more than 25 kilometers outside Damascus."

The US and French ambassadors to Syria travelled on July 7 and 8 to Hama, which has been the scene of violence between anti-regime protesters and security forces.

In their separate trips, the two ambassadors expressed support for the Syrian people to demonstrate peacefully and called on the Syrian government not to use force.

The US administration has said that diplomats have the right to travel throughout Syria to document the Syrian regime's crackdown against protesters calling for reforms in Syria.

More than 1,400 people have been killed by security forces since protests began in Syria in mid-March, according to Syrian-based human rights advocates.

The government disputes the figure and blames "armed thugs" and foreign conspirators for the unrest.

The reports are hard to verify, as Syrian authorities have barred most foreign media and international human rights groups from entering the country.