News / Middle East

Clinton: Syria's Assad Facing 'Crescendo of Condemnation'

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Aug. 12, 2011
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Aug. 12, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says there has been a "crescendo of condemnation" as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government continues its crackdown on protesters. Still, the secretary has not explicitly called on Assad to step down. Clinton said an international voice is important so Assad's government cannot say pressure is only coming from the West.

Clinton said she and her Norwegian counterpart Jonas Gahr Stoere discussed their acute concern about the Syrian government's crackdown when they met at the State Department Friday.  

"The United States will continue to work with our partners to turn this growing consensus into increased pressure and isolation for the Assad regime.  In particular, we urge those countries still buying Syrian oil and gas, those countries still sending Assad weapons, those countries whose political and economic support give him comfort in his brutality to get on the right side of history.  President Assad has lost the legitimacy to lead, and it is clear that Syria would be better off without him," Clinton said.   

While the United States continues to ratchet up economic and diplomatic pressure on Syria, neither Clinton nor U.S. President Barack Obama have explicitly called on Assad to step down.  

Clinton said the United States is engaged in intensive diplomatic efforts to persuade international partners to increase political and financial pressure on Syria.

"And I don't think you should assume anything other than we're trying and succeeding at putting together an international effort so that there will not be any temptation on the part of anyone inside the Assad regime to claim that it's only the United States or maybe it's only the West.  Indeed, it's the entire world," Clinton said.

Clinton noted that, in addition to Western nations, the United Nations Security Council, as well as the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others have decried the violence.

Norway's Stoere said a government that turns its army on its people loses legitimacy to represent the people.  He also underscored the need for entities in the region to speak up.

"We have been missing that, but it is starting to come from Syria's neighbors and from Syria's own organizations, and that is of great importance to building that alliance, is part of the work which is needed now," Stoere said.

Clinton said a presidential statement, issued about two weeks ago, was the first international statement to truly capture what has become a growing consensus about the Syrian government's brutal tactics.         

On Thursday, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Damascus.  The State Department says Muallem was defiant when Ford called for Syria to stop the violence, withdraw security forces and respond to Syrian aspirations for a democratic transition.

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