The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday strongly condemned the attacks against the U.S. and French embassies in Syria's capital and called on Bashar Assad's government to meet its international responsibility to protect diplomatic missions.
Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari accused the United States and France of distorting and exaggerating the facts surrounding Monday's demonstrations outside their embassies and insisted that Syrian law enforcement authorities "made every effort to ensure the safety of those embassies."
"My government is fully committed to protecting embassies and diplomatic personnel in accordance with the Vienna Convention of 1961," he said.
France pressed for the Security Council condemnation after mobs of hundreds of supporters of Assad's regime attacked the American and French embassies, smashing windows and spray-painting obscenities on the walls. Three French Embassy employees were injured.
The council acted quickly and so did U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the secretary-general considers the attacks on the two embassies "to be totally unacceptable, and furthermore he believes that the Syrian authorities need to live up to their commitments under international conventions that say that host countries should protect diplomatic premises."
The Security Council statement was significant because all 15 council members had to agree, including Russia and China, which have opposed a council resolution that would condemn Syria's crackdown on demonstrators, and Syria's neighbor, Lebanon.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, whose country currently chairs the council, told reporters his country and its European partners will continue pressing for adoption of a resolution against the Syrian regime that would include the duty to protect diplomatic missions.
"We should not forget hundreds of thousands (of) normal people, young people, demonstrating for their own freedom," Westerwelle said. "What has happened in the last days and hours shows us that the common language of international community is necessary, is decisive, is crucial."
Ja'afari read reporters a letter he sent to the council on behalf of the government saying the demonstrations were organized by youths to express their opposition to U.S. and French "interference in Syria's internal affairs."
The protests followed last week's visit by the American and French ambassadors to the city of Hama, a stronghold of opposition to Assad's authoritarian government. Syrian authorities were angered by the visit and U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford's harsh criticism afterward of the government crackdown on a four-month-old uprising. Ford's residence was also attacked on Monday.
Ja'afari told reporters it was hyprocritical for the U.S. and France to encourage protests "against the government, but when these demonstrators demonstrated in front of their embassies in Damascus because of the intereference of the two ambassadors in our internal affairs in the city of Hama, then these demonstrators become thugs and mobs."
In the letter, he said there was "no justificiation" for bringing Monday's embassy attacks to the council's attention "particularly given that the guards of ... the French embassy fired on the protesters and detained two of them in violation of the most fundamental rules of diplomatic etiquette."
Syrian law enforcement authorities deployed reinforcements to help protect the embassies, the letter said, and arrested "some demonstrators who are currently being questioned and will be brought to justice."
Ja'afari also stressed that Syrian embassies have been attacked in recent months but the government did not bring the matter to the council.
He cited an attack three weeks ago on the Syrian Embassy in Paris when demonstrators "threw eggs and tomatoes and they painted the main entrance of our embassy with white painting while the French policemen who are in charge of protecting our embassy in Paris did not move."
Nonetheless, members of the Security Council, which includes Syria's neighbor Lebanon, agreed to "codemn in the strongest terms the attacks against embassies in Damascus which have resulted in damage to embassy premises and injuries to diplomatic personnel."