Wed, May 30, 2012
World > Middle East > 2012 Syrian Situation

Syrian diplomats expelled over Houla massacre

2012-05-30 00:48:17 GMT2012-05-30 08:48:17(Beijing Time)

UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy for Syria (JSE) Kofi Annan(fourth left), Norwegian Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, head of the UN observer team in Syria(third left), Syrian President Bashar Assad(third right), and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem(second right) attend a meeting in Damascus, Syria. Annan met Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday following a massacre last week that killed more than 100 people and sparked widespread international condemnation against Damascus. SANA/Associated Press

Picture taken shows the bodies of child victims killed during an artillery barrage from Syrian forces in Houla in this handout image dated May 26, 2012. U.N. observers in Syria have confirmed that artillery and tank shells were fired at a residential area of Houla, Syria, where at least 108 people, including many children, were killed, the U.N. chief said on Sunday in a letter to the Security Council. REUTERS/Shaam News Network/Handout

By Li Hongmei, Sina English

Prompted by Houla massacre , the US, the Netherlands, France, Britain, Canada, Spain, Germany, and Italy joined Australia in expelling some or all of Syria's diplomatic staff, making the “concerted protest” to be a Nine-country bloc.

Nine Western nations, including the US, expelled some or all of Syria's diplomatic missions to their countries in a coordinated action against the massacre in a Syrian town of Houla that killed more than 100 civilians.

The United States announced the expulsion of Syrian charge d'affairs Zuhair Jabbour, joining other countries in a crackdown on Syria's overseas diplomatic corps. Syria's ambassador to the US left after Washington closed its Damascus embassy in February.

Francois Hollande, France's president, told reporters the decision was "taken in consultation with France's partners," suggesting a coordinated diplomatic effort. The French foreign minister called Syrian president Bashar al-Assad a "murderer." And Australia's Bob Carr said those responsible for the massacre at Houla would be held to account.

The Associated Press wrote that State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland blamed the Syrian government for the Houla killings and said Jabbour had 72 hours to leave the country.

All the countries in question announced the expulsions after consultations with each other on what they called unacceptable levels of violence. Some governments told Syrian diplomats to leave immediately, others gave them up to seven days to pack their bags.

The Netherlands declared Syria's ambassador - who lives in Brussels and also represents Damascus in Belgium - to be persona non grata.

Some Arab nations have already taken similar diplomatic action against the Syrian government.

Gulf Cooperation Council countries - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait - expelled Syrian envoys in February then the following month closed their embassies in Damascus.

The new coordinated action from the Western countries took place as international mediator Kofi Annan met Assad in Damascus and told him that "bold steps" were required for his peace plan to succeed.

British Foreign Minister William Hague, however, said the expulsions aimed to tell Assad and his ruling elite that time was running out for them to comply with the peace plan.

Syrian officials denied any army role in the massacre, one of the worst single incidents in the conflict.

More than 10,000 people have been killed since the unrest against Assad's 11-year-rule broke out in March 2011.

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