The United Nations effort to broker an end to violence in Syria is faltering as President Bashar al- Assad ignores his commitment to adhere to the agreement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today.
Assad pledged to implement Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s six- point plan to pull back forces, end the use of heavy weapons, allow peaceful demonstrations and access for humanitarian aid and journalists and begin a political transition, Clinton said at an Istanbul meeting of the so-called “Friends of Syria.”
“The time for excuses is over,” Clinton told her counterparts. “Nearly a week has gone by, and we have to conclude that the regime is adding to its long list of broken promises.” We “cannot sit back and wait any longer,” Clinton said.
Clinton offered no concrete plan for ousting Assad and instead outlined an intensified slate of pressure tactics. The U.S. will create an umbrella group to tighten sanctions, increase funding for humanitarian aid, supply opposition forces with communications gear and create a group to monitor Syrian “atrocities” so members of the regime can eventually be held accountable for the violence there, Clinton said.
Clinton was speaking at a meeting of the “Friends of Syria,” a grouping of politicians from about 80 nations meeting in Istanbul today to discuss a political transition in Syria to replace Assad’s government and end fighting that has left more than 9,000 people dead. Violence has continued since the Syrian commitment on March 27, adding more than 200 to the death toll.
Russia and China declined an invitation to join the group, with the Foreign Ministry in Moscow saying it seeks foreign intervention, not dialogue.
“Together we must hasten the day that peace and freedom come to Syria,” Clinton said. “That solution cannot come fast enough, and we grieve for every lost day and every lost life.”
The U.S. will lead the creation of a ‘sanctions working group’ that will coordinate and expand penalties against the Syrian regime, Clinton said. The idea, according to a State Department official who was not authorized to speak publicly, is that if one country has information about an individual or entity that needs to be sanctioned, it can be quickly shared with the wider group.
Another initiative the “Friends” are discussing is how they can use publicity and social media to “name and shame” individuals and entities that are evading the sanctions, the official said.
To ensure that there are consequences for Syrian regime officials driving the crackdown, the U.S. will provide $1.25 million to form an accountability group to track human rights violations and atrocities, Clinton said.
The group would train and mentor Syrian investigators and lawyers, establish a secure database to store the information, and establish a prosecutor’s unit to collect and analyze evidence that could be used against regime officials in Syrian or international courts, the State Department official said.
“Our message must be clear to those who give the orders and those who carry them out,” Clinton said. “Stop killing your fellow citizens or you will face serious consequences. Your countrymen will not forget, and neither will the international community.”
The U.S. will also pledge another $12 million for humanitarian aid including field hospitals, clean water and tents, bring the total U.S. humanitarian aid contribution to $25 million.
In addition, the U.S. is supplying communications equipment “that will help activists organize, evade attacks by the regime, and connect to the outside world,” Clinton said. She said that the U.S. is also talking to other members of the ‘Friends’ group about how best to expand this support.
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