As violence grows, Ford emphasizes peaceful transition in Syria

As violence grows, Ford emphasizes peaceful transition in Syria

U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford took to the U.S. Embassy Damascus Facebook page Thursday to explain the reasons for the closing of the embassy Feb. 6 and to offer new evidence that the Syrian regime is attacking civilians.

"First, like people around the world, my colleagues and friends are watching the video coming out of Homs and some of the other Syrian cities in the last days with horror and revulsion," Ford wrote. "I hear the devastating stories about newborns in Homs dying in hospitals where electricity has been cut and when we see disturbing photos offering proof that the regime is using mortars and artillery against residential neighborhoods, all of us become even more concerned about the tragic outcome for Syrian civilians." [emphasis in the original]

"It is odd to me that anyone would try to equate the actions of the Syrian army and armed opposition groups since the Syrian government consistently initiates the attacks on civilian areas, and it is using its heaviest weapons," he continued, in a not-so-veiled reference to Russian and Chinese diplomats, who made that very argument before vetoing the Arab League backed resolution at the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 4.

Ford also went into the reason behind the embassy closing, which he said was the most taxing day in his multi-decade diplomatic career. 

"I left Damascus with immense sadness and regret-I wish our departure had not been necessary, but our Embassy, along with several other diplomatic missions in the area, was not sufficiently protected, given the new security concerns in the capital," he wrote. "We and those other embassies requested extra protection measures from the Syrian government, given the danger to both our citizens and the Syrian citizens that worked with and near us. Our concerns were not addressed."

Ford said he remains the ambassador and will work in Washington "to support a peaceful transition for the Syrian people." [italics original]

"We and our international partners hope to see a transition that reaches out and includes all of Syria’s communities and that gives all Syrians hope for a better future," Ford wrote. "My year in Syria tells me such a transition is possible, but not when one side constantly initiates attacks against people taking shelter in their homes."

UPDATE: The State Department released a set of declassified satellite photos Friday as evidence the Syrian military is attacking civilians. Those photos can be found here.