Posted by Joshua on Thursday, December 30th, 2010
President Obama, using his authority to bypass Congress, has named four ambassadors and the No. 2 person at the Justice Department as recess appointments, allowing them to serve through most of next year without Senate confirmation. The appointments Wednesday included career diplomat Robert S. Ford as the first ambassador to Syria since 2005 and Francis Ricciardone Jr. as ambassador to Turkey.
In a statement to CNN, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), soon to be head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said she was “deeply disappointed that the president decided to make such a major concession to the Syrian regime.” Such a move tells the Syrian government it can continue its “dangerous agenda” without facing consequences, she said
Robert Ford told US senators at a confirmation hearing on his nomination as the next US ambassador to Syria that the US would not relax sanctions on Damascus as long as the government continues to support Islamic militant groups. “We will maintain sanctions on Syria as long as it supports terrorist groups like Hizbullah and Hamas,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He also argued that directly conveying America’s perspective to Syria was important to advancing US interests, and said, “Unfiltered straight talk with the Syrian government will be my mission priority.” He then enumerated a number of issues he would be addressing with the Syrian regime upon confirmation, including its relations with Iran, Lebanese sovereignty and the importance of restarting peace talks with Israel.
Senior Syrian official Issa Darwish told the German Press Agency dpa that the move would help Damascus convey its political positions better. “Syria has proven, as President Bashar al-Assad has, that it is for peace,” said Darwish, who is former assistant foreign minister and a senior member of the ruling Baath Party.
“And experience has proven, over the past four decades, that Syria is an important player in the region and it is in Washington’s interest to have an ambassador in Damascus to understand the political position of Syria,” he added.