Britain Disinvites Syrian Ambassador to Royal Wedding

Uri Friedman
Britain Disinvites Syrian Ambassador to Royal Wedding

To condemn Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's increasingly violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Syria, the U.S. is considering imposing sanctions on Syrian officials and, along with Europe, urging the U.N. Security Council to condemn the regime. But now the U.K. has found a new way to censure Assad: British officials have disinvited the Syrian ambassador to the U.K., Sami Khiyami, to Friday's royal wedding, amidst mounting criticism from human rights groups and opposition parties over Khiyami's presence on the guest list.

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In a radio interview, Khiyami (pictured above with Queen Elizabeth II in 2005) described the decision as "a bit embarrassing but said he didn't think it would jeopardize his relationship with the British government and added, "I don't really understand it but I understand the influence of media on the government decisions." The U.K.'s Foreign Office met with Khiyami on Wednesday in an effort to persuade the Assad regime to end the violence in Syria.

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In its statement, the Foreign Office explained that it was inviting representatives of countries with which it had "normal diplomatic relations" (which includes Syria), though the invitation did "not mean endorsement or approval of the behaviour of any government." As the AP explains, critics of the policy point out that diplomats from autocratic regimes like Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia are invited but not former British leaders Gordon Brown or Tony Blair. Over the weekend, Bahrain's crown prince, facing criticism similar to that faced by Khiyami, declined his royal wedding invitation with "deep regret" because of the unrest in his country. Yemen's ambassador is invited, though it's not clear if he's attending, and Libya's ambassador isn't (relations between London and Tripoli "are clearly not normal," the Foreign Office explains), according to CNN.