Ambassador Returns to Syria a Month After Recall Over Safety Concerns

Dec 6, 2011 11:34am

Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria is returning more than a month after he was recalled over concerns for his safety, according to State Department Deputy spokesperson Mark Toner.

Toner said Ford would continue the work he started before leaving the country due to safety concerns in October, including “delivering the United States’ message to the people of Syria; providing reliable reporting on the situation on the ground; and engaging with the full spectrum of Syrian society on how to end the bloodshed and achieve a peaceful political transition.”

“We believe his presence in the country is among the most effective ways to send the message that the United States stands with the people of Syria,” Toner said in a statement.

At the time Ford was recalled in October, he had spoken out publicly against the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and had been a target of intimidation from the regime. Ford was attacked by a mob and pelted with eggs and tomatoes as he visited a prominent dissident in late September.

Ford is to arrive Wednesday in Damascus.  The U.S. embassy staff can be described as a skeleton crew right now, consisting of essential personnel, this after the authorization of departures for dependents and non-essential personnel.

Ford had been planning to return to Syria in time for Thanksgiving, but security concerns led the administration to scrap those plans.   As part of the reminder that Ford would always return to Syria,  State Dept. spokesperson Victoria Nuland had said repeatedly on the record that Ford had purchased a Thanksgiving turkey for staff that he would bring back in time to celebrate the holiday.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met today with leaders of the movements against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad telling them, “Obviously, a democratic transition is more than removing the Assad regime. It means setting Syria on the path of the rule of law.”

ABC News’ Barbara Walters sat down with Assad for an exclusive interview, that will air tomorrow. Read more about that interview here.

 

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