AMMAN, (AFP) — More than 100 demonstrators stormed the Jordanian embassy in Damascus and tore down the flag in protest at King Abdullah II’s call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to go, Jordanian newspapers said on Tuesday.
It was the fourth such protest against embassies of regional powers by angry Assad loyalists since the Arab League voted on Saturday to suspend Syria and impose sanctions against the regime over its bloody eight-month crackdown on peaceful protesters.
“Nearly 120 people protested in front of the Jordanian embassy in Damascus on Monday evening and two of them managed to break into the outside courtyard of the embassy and tear down the Jordanian flag,” ambassador Omar al-Amad told the Al-Dustur and Al-Ghad newspapers.
“Syrian security forces did not intervene to prevent the incursion into the embassy compound by these two individuals,” the ambassador added.
“By international agreement, the responsibility to protect embassies and other diplomatic missions falls on the host country,” Amad said, underlining the protection afforded to the Syrian embassy in Amman despite widespread anger in Jordan over the bloodshed in the Arab neighbouring country.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday became the first Arab leader to openly call for Assad to step down, two days after the Arab League took the rare move of suspending Syrian membership of the 22-nation bloc.
“I believe, if I were in his shoes, I would step down,” the king said in a BBC interview. “I would step down and make sure whoever comes behind me has the ability to change the status quo that we’re seeing.”
King Abdullah said Assad should usher in a new era of political dialogue before stepping down.
“Again I don’t think the system allows for that, so if Bashar has the interest of his country, he would step down, but he would also create an ability to reach out and start a new phase of Syrian political life,” he told the BBC.
Syria has reacted angrily to the decision at the weekend by the Arab League to suspend the country from the pan-Arab bloc.
The main Jordanian opposition parties, including the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, called on the government on Sunday to withdraw its ambassador from Damascus in accordance with an appeal from the Arab League made as part of Saturday’s package of sanctions.
The bloc’s foreign ministers decided to leave the final decision to member states but there has been growing pressure from human rights groups and Arab public opinion angry over a crackdown that has cost more than 3,500 lives, according to the United Nations.
The embassies of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, seen as prime movers in the groundswell of regional opinion against the Assad regime, had already come under attack.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Monday apologies for the attacks on those embassies.
“It is important… that this does not repeat itself. The protection of the embassies is part of our responsibilities,” Muallem told a news conference in Damascus.