Washington/Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – A US State Department official informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Washington is monitoring the situation in Syria following the “national dialogue” which took place in Damascus on Friday and Saturday, adding that the US now expects the Syrian government to take “positive and sincere steps” to resolve the crisis taking place in the country. The US State Department official, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, added that the national dialogue represents a “new phase” that must lead to the implementation of the demands of the Syrian people. The US source also stressed that the Syrian government will be judged on actions, not words.
The US State Department official also made reference to the speech given by Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa during the national dialogue, saying that al-Sharaa had acknowledged that the Syrian government did not understand the significance of the Arab Spring, and that he promised that this national dialogue would lead to a democratic pluralistic state.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, the US State Department official also acknowledged that the national dialogue did not include any genuine opposition leaders; however those Syrian political figures who did attend the national dialogue did discuss lifting the harsh security measures in place in Syria, and securing the release of political prisoners.
Protests took place earlier this week outside of the US and French embassies in Damascus, culminating with al-Assad loyalists breaking into the US embassy on Monday, tearing down US embassy plaques and trying to break security glass. According to Western diplomats in Damascus, security guards were forced to use live ammunition to prevent hundreds of pro-Assad protestors from storming the French embassy. These protests were fueled by a visit carried out last week by the US and French ambassadors to the city of Hama, the focus of protests against the al-Assad’s rule.
The US State Department official informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the Syrian protestors had thrown tomatoes, eggs, rocks, and even glass at the US embassy, and that the US embassy’s chief of security had contacted the Syrian authorities in Damascus who had provided the US embassy with additional guards.
The US State Department official also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford had expressed his condemnation of the protestors taking place outside of the US embassy to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. Ford reportedly called on Muallem to put an end to these protestors, saying that his visit to Hama did not represent an excuse or justification for such protests. The US State Department official added that Ford informed the Syrian Foreign Minister that his visit to Hama was merely within the framework of gathering information, particularly in light of the Syrian government preventing any information about the protests in Hama – and the manner that they are being suppressed – from being revealed.
The US official also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the US ambassador had referred to the Geneva Convention article relating to the protection of foreign diplomats, stressing that this was the responsibility of the host country.
As tensions between Washington and Damascus have intensified even further following the assault by al-Assad loyalists on the US and French embassies in Damascus, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lost legitimacy and is “not indispensable.”
Clinton strongly condemned the Syrian attacks on the US and French embassies, adding that Washington no longer believes that the Syrian ruler will follow through on his promises of reform. Speaking to reporters during a joint-press conference with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Washington, Clinton stressed that “from our perspective, he [al-Assad] has lost legitimacy, he has failed to deliver on the promises he’s made, he has sought and accepted aid from the Iranians as to how to repress his own people.”