News / Middle East

    Syria Fighting Rages On, Nations Discuss More Sanctions

    Syrian citizens walk in a destroyed street that was attacked on Wednesday by Syrian forces warplanes, at Abu al-Hol street in Homs province, Syria, Nov. 29, 2012.
    Syrian citizens walk in a destroyed street that was attacked on Wednesday by Syrian forces warplanes, at Abu al-Hol street in Homs province, Syria, Nov. 29, 2012.
    Edward Yeranian
    Fighting raged around Syria's main airport Friday and an Internet blackout continued throughout Syria as diplomats from more than 60 countries met in Tokyo to tighten sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

    Heavy clashes are reported in towns near the airport and one activist said the government continued its bombing of the suburb of Daraya.

    Rami Abd al-Rahman of the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that while the airport road is open, it is not completely secure, due to continuing fighting in various towns along the road. He said government forces are using both warplanes and artillery to bomb rebel positions near the airport road.

    Analyst Riad Kahwaji, who heads the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, says any long-term closure of the airport would “deprive the government of a significant supply route” used for “weapons and munitions from Russia and Iran.”

    Kahwaji said fighting on the airport road may be a sign that rebel forces are beginning to encircle the capital:

    “It is another indication that the rebels have actually gained control of all the suburbs of Damascus and are beginning to lay siege to the capital, starting from the east and the west and the south, and now the north," he said. "So, now the rebels are making quite a push on the capital."

    Internet and telephone lines remained cut Friday throughout much of Syria for a second straight day.

    The Internet blackout, confirmed by two U.S.-based companies that monitor online connectivity, is unprecedented in the 20-month-long uprising against Syria's President Assad.

    Authorities often cut phone lines and Internet access in areas where government forces are conducting major military operations.

    Sanctions meeting

    Delegates of more than 60 countries and organizations attend the international meeting to coordinate sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Tokyo, Japan, November 30, 2012.Delegates of more than 60 countries and organizations attend the international meeting to coordinate sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Tokyo, Japan, November 30, 2012.
    x
    Delegates of more than 60 countries and organizations attend the international meeting to coordinate sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Tokyo, Japan, November 30, 2012.
    Delegates of more than 60 countries and organizations attend the international meeting to coordinate sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Tokyo, Japan, November 30, 2012.
    In Tokyo, the Friends of the Syrian People International Working Group on Sanctions issued a statement Friday after a one-day meeting, calling on those working with the Syrian regime to distance themselves or “face further isolation from the international community and the international economic and financial system.”

    While Russia and China were not named in the statement, delegates confirmed it is meant to warn those two countries, who were not part of the Tokyo meeting.

    The group also asked for a tightened embargo on petroleum products. The United States has banned the import of Syrian oil and gas. The European Union has not.

    Representing one of the co-chairs, Ambassador Samir Arrour of Morocco, said the Tokyo meeting achieved its goal.

    “This meeting was aimed at strengthening sanctions against the Syrian regime," Arrour said. "Most of the countries that were present agreed upon these kinds of action to provoke further search for a peaceful solution so we can see an end to the civilian casualties and a cessation of violence.”

    While the Tokyo meeting itself imposed no new sanctions, it did formally hear from a number of countries about new sanctions they have imposed.

    Among the most significant: Turkey revealed it has prohibited shipments of phosphate into Syria.

    Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said the group was taking collective action amid a failure by a divided United Nations Security Council to do so.

    Sanctions pressure

    Francesso Fini, deputy director of sanctions security policy for the European External Action Service, said sanctions should help increase pressures on the Syrian regime.

    “Sanctions, in themselves, will not achieve the solution," he said. "But they can contribute by putting pressure on the regime, by stopping funding reaching the regime with well-targeted measures - targeted and aimed at the regime and its supporters and protecting the population from intended effects."

    This was the first meeting of the sanctions group in Asia. Bangladesh, Indonesia and Kosovo joined the group for the first time, and participants said this was a symbol of a further international “building of political will” about Syria.

    The Tokyo meeting also was the first attended by representatives of a newly-formed Syrian opposition group - the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, which France, Britain, Turkey and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council have formally recognized as the Syrian people' legitimate representatives.

    Co-chairs of the meeting in Japan told reporters the telecommunications outage in Syria was not mentioned during the conference, but a U.S. State Department official in Tokyo contradicted that account, saying the subject was discussed briefly.

    A separate Friends of Syria group focusing on economic recovery and development in the country is to be held December 12 in Morocco. The sanctions group convenes again in Bulgaria next February.

    • A view of buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet, Daria, Syria, November 30, 2012.
    • Demonstrators hold a placard that reads "Victory sign over the palace," during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Binsh, November 30, 2012.
    • People walk along a row of barb wire near the border with Syria, Sanliurfa province, Turkey, November 30, 2012.
    • Youths sit next to a row of barbed wire near the Syrian border, Sanliurfa province, Turkey, November 30, 2012.
    • An Ottoman-era building damaged by an air strike in a besieged area in Homs, Syria, November 28, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter with an amputated hand, takes cover from a sniper loyal to Syria's President Bashar al -Assad, near Aleppo's historic citadel, November 28, 2012.
    • This image taken from video obtained from the Ugarit News shows smoke after a building was struck in a warplane attack in Homs, Syria, November 28, 2012.
    • A man carries parts of a warplane, belonging to forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in Daret Azzah, November 28, 2012.
    • This image taken from video obtained from the Ugarit News shows people near a destroyed plane that was shot down by Free Syrian Army fighters in Aleppo, Syria, November 28, 2012.
    • Residents pose near damaged wheat sacks after Syrian Air Force fighter jets fired missiles at the town of Ras al-Ain, Syria, November 26, 2012.
    • Members of the Free Syrian Army and men from the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain unload wheat from trucks, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 26, 2012.
    • Smoke rises from damaged wheat sacks after Syrian Air Force fighter jets fired missiles at the town of Ras al-Ain, Syria, November 26, 2012.
    • Residents walk near debris from damaged buildings after shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at Daria near Damascus, Syria, November 26, 2012.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters are seen in Daria near Damascus, Syria, November 25, 2012.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    November 30, 2012 6:34 PM
    Anyone that promotes the Assad Regime SHOULD be cut off from the rest of the world from doing business. Assad is not at war, he is just a cold blooded killer/murderer. I am not name calling the facts are all there. Indiscriminately bombing civillian neighbourhoods and also using cluster bombs is enough said. 90% of the 40,000 people killed (likely double) are in fact civillians. Any country who arms or backs a person responsible for so many killings has their hands dirty as well. Assad should be hung by the Syrian people and Russia should have its hand smacked too for supporting such a regime. The people of Syria want an end to Assad, and whoever helps the Syrian people, cheers to them.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    December 01, 2012 9:11 AM
    The most naive comment on this issue, or, are you joking? The people of Syria, on the contrary, are not interested in war, the "rebels/insurgents" brought war to Syria. You claim fantastical "war crimes" by the Syrian government, what a joke, the insurgents were the provocateurs of the violence by occupying a civillian area and attacking government employees (like police and postal workers) and when the army attempted to enter the area the insurgents hid in civillian occupied homes and attacked natrually drawing a response and getting civillians killed. This is a strategy used by the true human rights abusers, the insurgent so-called rebels. Finally, your bluster about "hand smacking", should be tempered by the facts that this "rebellion" could not survive without massive coordinated outside support.

    by: DonJuanP from: Cambridge, United Kingdom
    November 30, 2012 10:02 AM
    It is all too easy to see the Syrian conflict in black and white, the good guys (the 'Rebels') and the bad guys (the Assad government). For the west to take sides just because the 'rebels' utter the magic words- 'democracy and freedom' is not good enough. In fact it is pathetic and reckless in equal measure.
    We have contributed to this conflict by our easy siding with the rebels no matter what the consequences for Syria. The west and its cronies in the Middle East and other so called 'friends of Syria', have just poured oil on the fire in giving backing to the rebels.
    Once again we see that 'peace loving democracies' of the west are nothing of the kind- we are as gung ho as any dictatorship as ever been. All that distinugishes us from them is that we have better weapons then they do....

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora