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28 April 2011

Syrian ambassador has royal wedding invite withdrawn

Foreign Office says Sami Khiyami’s presence would be “unacceptable” given Syria’s attacks on civilia

By Samira Shackle

Sami Khiyami, the Syrian ambassador to London, has had his invitation to the royal wedding withdrawn by the UK Foreign Office.

The move follows intense criticism over the decision to leave Khiyami on the guest list, amid fears that President Bashar al-Assad is preparing another violent crackdown on civilian protesters after Friday prayers tomorrow.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said:

Representatives of countries with which the UK has normal diplomatic relations have been invited to the wedding. An invitation does not mean endorsement or approval of the behaviour of any government, simply that we have normal diplomatic relations with that country. In the light of this week’s attacks against civilians by the Syrian security forces, which we have condemned, the Foreign Secretary has decided that the presence of the Syrian ambassador at the royal wedding would be unacceptable and that he should not attend. Buckingham Palace shares the view of the Foreign Office that it is not considered appropriate for the Syrian ambassador to attend the wedding.

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Yesterday, France, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain all summoned the Syrian ambassadors in their countries and told them that they condemn the violence.

Today it is reported that hundreds of members of the ruling Ba’ath party have resigned in protest at the increasingly bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. The death toll is estimated to stand at around 500.

But what about the other dubious invitees? The crown prince of Bahrain – also engaged in brutal action against his people – did not have his invitation withdrawn, although he declined to attend due to the ongoing unrest in his country. Representatives of Saudi Arabia, whose troops are assisting the government in Bahrain, will be in attendance.

And this is not the only hardline regime that will have a presence at the event. Representatives of leaders from Swaziland and Zimbabwe – to name but two – are also on the list. Should they be waiting to have their invitations revoked? It doesn’t look like it for now.