US joins 8 other countries in expelling Syrian diplomats over Houla massacre


UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan speaks to the press upon his arrival in Damascus for talks with top officials on May 28, 2012. Annan said he was 'shocked' at the weekend's 'tragic events' in the central Syrian town of Houla where the Syrian government used artillery in which at least 108 people were killed.


Louai Beshara

Nine Western nations, including the US, expelled some or all of Syria's diplomatic missions to their countries in protest of a weekend massacre in Houla that killed at least 106 people, Bloomberg reported.

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, according to Reuters. The French foreign minister called Syrian president Bashar al-Assad a "murderer."

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.

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While the United States, France, and Australia have formally expelled their Syrian ambassadors, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Canada began the process of sending Syrian diplomatic staff home, wrote Bloomberg. The Netherlands declared Syria's ambassador a "persona non grata" but may not be able to expel him because is based in Brussels, wrote DutchNews

Meanwhile, Russia condemned the Houla massacre, taking an "unusually hard line" against the Assad government, which it has shielded from Security Council action in the past. The Associated Press reported, "Analysts said Russia may be warning Assad that he needs to change course or lose Moscow's support."

"Bashar Assad is driving himself and Russia into a corner," Alexei Malashenko, a Carnegie Mideast expert, told the AP. 

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According to Reuters, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned his party that the world might not continue to wait: "There is also a limit to patience, and I believe that, God willing, there is also a limit to the patience in the UN Security Council."