Middle East

US ambassador Robert Ford to return to Syria

Archive photo of Robert Ford, 2010
Image caption Ambassador Robert Ford had made repeated contact with Syrian activists

The US ambassador to Syria, who was removed from the country after threats to his safety, is due to return, US state department officials have said.

Robert Ford left the Syrian capital, Damascus, in late October.

He had angered Syrian authorities by showing solidarity with activists involved in an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

Meanwhile, France's ambassador returned to Damascus on Monday having been recalled last month, according to AFP.

News of Mr Ford's return came as the US secretary of state met seven members of the opposition Syrian National Council in Geneva.

Hillary Clinton said that democratic transition in Syria - where the UN estimates that more than 4,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the uprising in March - meant more than removing Mr Assad.

"It means setting Syria on the path of the rule of law and protecting the universal rights of all citizens, regardless of sect or ethnicity or gender," she told journalists.


A senior US state department official told reporters that Mr Ford was expected to leave for Damascus later on Tuesday.

"Ambassador Robert Ford has completed his consultations in Washington and is returning to Damascus this evening," the unnamed official said.

Mr Ford left Syria on 24 October as the government crackdown on protesters and a nascent armed insurgency against Mr Assad intensified.

In return, Syria recalled its own envoy in Washington.

An Arabic-speaker who has served in several Arab countries, Mr Ford had expressed solidarity with protesters as well as denouncing Syria's crackdown on its opponents.

He originally arrived in Damascus in January as the first US ambassador to Syria for more than five years.

The French ambassador to Syria, Eric Chevallier, was recalled to Paris on 16 November after attacks on French diplomatic missions in the country.

A spokesman for the French foreign ministry, Romain Nadal, told the AFP news agency that Mr Chevallier's return did not mean that the subjects of concern had disappeared.

"France is more than ever at the side of the Syrian people," he said.

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