News / Middle East

US Calls for Increased Economic Pressure, Sanctions on Syria

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, right, meets with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. in Damascus, August 9, 2011
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, right, meets with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. in Damascus, August 9, 2011

As Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria to call for an end to violence against anti-government demonstrators, an official at the U.S. State Department in Washington called for countries to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on Syria.

As Assad's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators intensifies, so, too, do international calls for him to stop military operations against the protestors.

In Washington Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said it is regrettable that the Syrian president is not heeding what she called the "increasingly loud voice of the international community."  

"The actions that Assad has taken in the last week, I think, have certainly caught the attention of those countries which were more reticent to criticize him publicly, and that's why you're beginning to see this stronger public condemnation," said  Nuland. "We continue to believe that that political condemnation needs to be followed by increasing action on the economic side to increase the pressure on Syria."

In recent days, the Gulf Arab nations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain have recalled their ambassadors from Syria, the Iraqi parliament has urged Syria to end the bloodshed, and the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council have issued statements against the violence.
Nuland said Washington wants countries and the United Nations to further ratchet up the pressure on Assad.

"Well, we have said in the past that we are particularly interested in further oil and gas sanctions," she said. "This is not something that would particularly apply in the United States context, because our own economic contacts with Syria are limited.  With regard to other things, we're asking all countries with trade relations with Syria to look deeply at what they can do to continue to pressure the regime."

Nuland said the Obama administration has attempted to improve relations with a number of countries, but she said it is impossible to have any kind of partnership with a regime that harms innocent people.    

"In the case of Syria, the message from 2009 was, if you are prepared to open Syria politically, if you are prepared to be a reformer, if you are prepared to work with us on Middle East peace and other issues we share, we can have a new and different kind of partnership - and that is not the path that Assad chose," said the U.S. State Department spokeswoman.
President Assad has defended his crackdown on protestors, saying he is dealing with terrorist groups.   

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