Today, Ambassador Ford addressed the situation in Syria in an interview with Christiane Amanpour of ABC's This Week. He said, “...My whole purpose in being in Syria is to be able to communicate not only with the Syrian Government but with the Syrian people more generally...It's important to bear witness to what the Syrian Government is doing. In that kind of environment, where the international press, international television, can't move around freely, it is really important for diplomats to be able to move around, to understand what the Syrian Government is doing on the ground. The Syrian Government does not tell the truth. They said there were armed gangs in Hama. Well, the only weapon I saw was a slingshot. So it's important to bear witness and it's important to relay a message of support."
Earlier this week, President Obama issued a statement on the violence in Syria. He said, “I am appalled by the Syrian government's use of violence and brutality against its own people. The reports out of Hama are horrifying and demonstrate the true character of the Syrian regime.”
The United Nations Security Council condemned the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with U.S.-based Syrian activists and members of the Syrian-American community in Washington, D.C. Secretary Clinton said, “I admire the courage of those brave Syrians, both inside and outside Syria, who continue to defy their government's brutality in order to freely express their universal rights. And I remain confident in the Syrian people's ability to chart a new course for Syria's future. As I told the activists today, the United States will continue to support the Syrian people in their efforts to begin a peaceful and orderly transition to democracy in Syria and to have their aspirations realized."
Last week, Secretary Clinton also released a statement on the deaths of four UN Peacekeepers in Abyei. She said, "The United States is deeply concerned by the deaths of four United Nations peacekeepers whose vehicles struck and detonated a land mine in the Abyei region this week, and by the Government of Sudan's response to this incident.”
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Yammamoto addressed the crisis in the Horn of Africa. He said, “The eastern Horn of Africa is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts since the 1950s. More than 12 million people -- mainly in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia -- are severely affected and in need of humanitarian assistance.” USAID's Administrator for Food Security Paul Weisenfeld shared how the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is working with the international community to ensure that critical assistance is mobilized to support those in need.
USAID's J. Alexander Thier highlighted the challenges and triumphs of civilian assistance efforts in Afghanistan. Consul Nikolas Trendowski shared why he chose to serve in Afghanistan, while Civilian Response Corps member Jon described his experience observing elections in the Kyrgyz Republic.
In Washington, Secretary Clinton delivered remarks at the swearing-in ceremony for U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke and met with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, with whom she discussed shared goals and commitments. Secretary Clinton expressed appreciation for Canada's contributions on issues related to Afghanistan, Haiti, and Libya. After returning from Benghazi, U.S. Representative to the Transitional National Council Chris Stevens provided an update on the situation in Libya.
In other news, Under Secretary Robert Hormats and Assistant Secretary Kerri-Anne Jones discussed the importance of eco-friendly, profit-friendly efficiency. They described it as, “a perfect opportunity for business, environmental groups, governments, and international institutions to work hand-in-hand to adopt new models for their organizations and infuse efficiencies that afford cost savings and a smaller eco-footprint.”
In educational and cultural news, Ambassador Charles Ray shared the success of an Embassy Harare Book Club that bridges cultural and political differences between the United States and Zimbabwe. In Washington, Egyptian band Massar Egbari offered a new perspective on changes in the Middle East and North Africa during a performance at the Kennedy Center, and a new exhibit that tells the story of the rescued Chilean miners opened at the Smithsonian Institution. Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton wished Muslims around the world a happy and blessed Ramadan.
I'd like to thank all of our readers for their feedback and comments, and we look forward to hearing from you in the week ahead.