Syria bans Western diplomats, including US ambassador

The US Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, on a guided government tour. Ford, who left Syria last October, is one of several Western diplomats declared officially unwelcome by the Syrian Foreign Ministry.

Syria has declared more than a dozen foreign diplomats unwelcome, a week after its own ambassadors were expelled from countries around the world.

According to state news agency SANA, the Foreign Ministry's move targets 17 diplomats from 11 countries: the US, Britain, Switzerland, Turkey, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany and Canada.

More from GlobalPost: 13 countries expel Syrian diplomats over Houla massacre

Many of those barred left the country several months ago, the New York Times said, including US Ambassador Robert Ford. He was recalled to Washington in October 2011 after threats to his safety.

The Syrian government holds that "diplomacy is an important tool to communicate with countries to resolve pending disputes and problems," SANA quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying, "and we hope that those countries which have taken the initiative of this step [will] adopt these principles in a way that allows the return of relations to normal between the two sides again."

At least 13 countries expelled Syrian diplomats in protest at mass killings in Houla, including many of those targeted by today's announcement.

More from GlobalPost: US closes Syria embassy

Reuters quoted Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Maqdad, as telling local TV that today's move aimed to encourage those countries to "correct" their position.

Separately, Damascus has agreed to allow aid agencies into some of its worst-affected areas, the BBC reported

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said today that the Syrian government had given a written assurance that aid workers would be given access to four provinces that have seen the most violence, the BBC said.