Australia on Tuesday expelled two Syrian diplomats in protest against last week's massacre of 108 people, mostly women and children, in the Syrian village of Houla.
Announcing the expulsion of Syrian Charge d'affaires Jawdat Ali and another diplomat from the Syrian Embassy in Canberra, Foreign Minister Bob Carr told reporters that he expected international sanctions would be announced soon.
The diplomats have been given 72 hours to leave Australia. Foreign Affairs Secretary Dennis Richardson conveyed the message to the Syrians, Australian media reported.
Carr said the decision was taken after seeing television footage and news photographs emerging from Houla near the city of Holms, one of the important centers of anti-government protest. He said he thought the world was "assuming" the Syrian regime was responsible for the attack because of the proximity of their military equipment.
Ali was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Monday to receive Australia's message of condemnation for the atrocities perpetrated against civilians in the village of Houla, including the massacre of civilians. Later in a statement, Carr said it was made clear to Ali that Australia expected the Syrian Government to cease military operations and abide by the ceasefire brokered by U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan.
"This massacre of civilians in Houla is a hideous and brutal crime," Carr said and added that the onus was now on the Syrian government to demonstrate a commitment to peace and immediately withdraw from military action.
Meanwhile, Annan met with embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Tuesday in the wake of the Houla killings which the Assad government blamed on Islamist militants while United Nations observers implicated the Army.
Annan, who arrived in the Syrian capital on Monday, is attempting to salvage his six-point peace plan which has the backing of the United Nations and the Arab League. The peace plan seeks to find a solution to the 15-month-old uprising against the Assad regime which has claimed more than 10,000 lives in the Middle East country.
by RTT Staff Writer
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