Categorized | Mutimedia, Royal Wedding, Video

Royals Withdraw Syrian Ambassador’s Invitation


The Daily Telegraph

The Queen greets the Ambassador of Syria, Dr Sami M Khiyami, at Buckingham Palace in 2005


The Foreign Office said it had decided Dr Sami Khiyami’s presence at the royal wedding ceremony would be “unacceptable” in the light of the killing of up to 450 pro-democracy demonstrators in recent weeks.

Kevan Jones, the shadow defence minister, had warned Buckingham Palace of the damage that would be done by the “horrific spectre of killing on the streets of Syria while the Syrian ambassador is in Westminster Abbey for the royal wedding.”

A statement from 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.”

Downing Street said that David Cameron agreed with William Hague’s decision that it would not be appropriate for the Syrian envoy to attend, but played down suggestions that it amounted to political interference.

“It is a family wedding, not a state occasion,” said a Downing Street spokeswoman. “The guest list has been compiled by the couple and the royal household.

“Regarding foreign countries, it is right that the Foreign Office has discussions with the palace.”

She added: “The British public have seen what has happened in Syria and probably agree that the Foreign Secretary’s decision is a good one.”

The ambassador said he found the withdrawal of the invite “a bit embarrassing”.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s The World At One whether he was surprised, Dr Khiyami said: “I wouldn’t say surprised.

“I find it a bit embarrassing but I don’t consider it a matter that would jeopardise any ongoing relations and discussions with the British Government.”

Dr Khiyami said he was not unhappy or disappointed, adding: “If it wasn’t for the importance of the event I wouldn’t have thought of it.”

He said he had not yet spoken to his government in Damascus about the withdrawn invite, saying the officials had other “issues they are handling”.

Asked whether he understood the controversy surrounding his invite, he said: “Well, I don’t really understand it, but I understand the influence of media on government decisions.”

The ambassador said he had been informed via telephone this morning by the Foreign Office’s Middle East director.

Tags: ,