Thursday, November 13, 2008

Embassy Tour Promoting Diplomacy & Peace

CODEPINKers and new supporters converged at the house to get ready for a day of promoting Citizen Diplomacy at the Embassies of Syria, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia--five countries with which the Bush administration has had antagonistic relations. Our goal was to embrace Obama's YES WE CAN motto, and turn it into YES WE CAN...Live in Peace. Fifteen of us set off in our two freshly painted RVs (with that message prominently displayed). As gifts, we took flowers, apple pies and cards expressing our desire for diplomacy.

The Embassies welcomed us with open arms. At the Cuban Embassy we talked about the need to push President-Elect Obama to do more than his announced lifting of restrictions for Cuban-Americans to travel to Cuba. We want him to lift ALL travel restrictions, as well as the trade embargo that has hurt the average Cuban and denying trade opportunities to U.S. businesses. We also talked about the need to free the "Cuban Five"--five Cubans unjustly imprisoned in the U.S.

At the Syria Embassy, the Ambassador Mustapha was very charming, dynamic and gracious. He told us of his hopes for improved relations under Obama. We were deeply saddened to hear him talk about the recent U.S. military incursion into Syria in which 8 civilians were brutally killed. We asked him to convey our sorrow to the families. We also discussed the tremendous burden Syria is shouldering by giving refuge to about 1.5 million Iraqis, and how we want our government to contribute more to their economic needs and of course, to end the occupation so that these families can return home.

The Venezuelans met us in a room decorated with the shirts of famous baseball players, reminding us of how much our nations have in common. We expressed our regrets that the Venezuelan ambassador had been recalled because of the diplomatic rift between our leaders and our desire for an administration that will not interfere in Venezuela's internal affairs. The same was true at Bolivian Embassy. There is presently no Ambassador and U.S. government support for the opposition to President Evo Morales has led to poor relations between our nations. We were told that President Morales will be in the United States next week to speak before the Organization of American States and meet with Obama's team. They are anxious to renew full diplomatic ties.

Our last stop was the Iranian "interests section"--not a embassy because of the lack of normal relations. The head diplomat, together with two other staff, met with us for over an hour. Over tea and cookies discussed everything from nuclear weapons to the US occupation of Iraq to cultural affairs. When we thought the visit was over, our hosts insisted that we stay and eat the apple pie together--and then they gave us gifts! It was a lovely visit.

All were delighted about how the day had gone, and felt that our small gesture as citizen diplomats moved us a step closer to peace.

No comments: