Saturday

21st Jan 2017

EU justifies keeping Syrian ambassador in good books

  • Barroso (l) receives diplomatic credentials from Soussan back in November 2007 (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Extra details have emerged on the three Syrian diplomats dubbed personae non gratae in the EU capital.

The men are: Mohammed Ayman Soussan (Syria's ambassador to Belgium and to the EU); Wael Saker (an attache in the Syrian embassy to Belgium, who is also accredited to the EU); and Safwan Bahloul (a third secretary in the Syrian embassy to Belgium).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders said on Tuesday (29 May) he did it because of the "extreme horror ... of the massacre committed in Houla [in western Syria]."

Only Bahloul actually has to leave Belgium, however. The other two can stay because the EU institutions have not blackballed them.

The EU could do it if all 27 member states and the European Commission agree. But nobody proposed the move when they met in Brussels on Tuesday in the Political and Security Committee to discuss Syria.

An EU contact said this is because of "reciprocity."

In diplomatic practice, if one side throws out an ambassador, the other side reciprocates. But the European External Action Service (EEAS) is keen to keep its ambassador in Syria to gather information. Four EU countries who earlier closed their missions in Syria are also operating out of the EEAS office in Damascus.

One EU diplomat who knows Soussan said he is a "career diplomat" and "not part of the security apparatus."

EUobserver interviewed Soussan in February 2011 shortly before the troubles began in Syria. He said people want stability more than reform because of the bad example of Iraq.

Saker is a different kettle of fish.

The Belgian state security service is looking into allegations that he is an officer in the secret police who has threatened to harm relatives in Syria of Belgium-based Syrian opposition supporters.

He is also accused of driving a black Mercedes with CD plates at high speed at protesters outside the Syrian embassy in Brussels in February, hitting one man in the leg.

The Syrian embassy denies it.

Reynders' decision leaves just three people in the Syrian embassy with diplomatic accreditation for Belgium: first secretary Khaldoun Zaffaranji; third secretary Yamen Yassouf; and Rima al-Hakim, a young woman who is Soussan's personal assistant.

Kerry to EU: Believe in yourself

Outgoing US secretary of state gives EU short pep talk from Davos, hailing its peaceful and economic success. 'It's worked, folks', he said.

Moldova turns from EU to Russia

Moldova's president said he would like to scrap an EU treaty and has started preparations to join a Russia-led bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey