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France closes Syria embassy after crackdown

France is to close its Damascus embassy on Tuesday, the foreign ministry said, after President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the move to protest the Syrian regime's bloody crackdown on demonstrators.

France is to close its Damascus embassy on Tuesday, the foreign ministry said, after President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the move to protest the Syrian regime’s bloody crackdown on demonstrators.

“The closure of the French embassy is planned for today,” French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told journalists.

“Ambassador Eric Chevallier leaves today or tomorrow morning,” he said, adding that discussions were underway to decide which country would represent French interests in Syria.

There are around 2,000 French nationals in Syria, mostly with dual nationality.

Sarkozy announced on Friday that France would close its embassy in Damascus because of the “scandal” of the repression by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of his protesting population.

France last closed its Syrian embassy in 1956 when Arab states broke diplomatic relations with France and Britain over the Suez Crisis. The French embassy reopened six years later.

Valero declined to comment on the status of the Syrian embassy in Paris, where, contacted by AFP, an unnamed spokesman said it was continuing to operate normally and “there is no plan to close”.

The year-long uprising in Syria has killed at least 7,500 people, according to the United Nations.

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PROTEST

French Interior Minister asks police to ban pro-Palestinian Paris protest

France's interior minister on Thursday asked police to ban a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris this weekend over the conflict with Israel fearing a repeat of clashes during a similar situation in 2014.

French Interior Minister asks police to ban pro-Palestinian Paris protest
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin asked the Paris police chief to ban the protests on Saturday linked to the recent tensions in the Middle East. Photo: Guillaume HORCAJUELO POOL / AFP

Activists had called the protest in the Barbès district of northern Paris to demonstrate against Israel’s use of force in the Gaza Strip in response to the rocket fire by militant group Hamas at the Jewish state.

“I have asked the Paris police chief to ban the protests on Saturday linked to the recent tensions in the Middle East,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin wrote on Twitter.

“Serious disturbances to public order were seen in 2014,” he added, urging police chiefs elsewhere in France to also remain vigilant over demonstrations.

In a circular seen by AFP, he also urged local police chiefs to assure the “protection of places of worship, schools, cultural centres and businesses of the Jewish community.”

Several demonstrations took place in France during July 2014 to denounce an Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.

On July 19, 2014, several thousand protesters defied a ban on a demonstration at Barbes and the rally rapidly degenerated into violent clashes that lasted for hours.

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