News / USA

US, Europe Call for Syria’s Assad to 'Step Aside'

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, center, after at the end of the second day closing session of the Arab League Summit in Sirte, Libya, (file photo)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, center, after at the end of the second day closing session of the Arab League Summit in Sirte, Libya, (file photo)

The United States and its key European allies on Thursday made a coordinated call on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, after he ignored appeals to end a brutal five-month crackdown on protestors.  The U.S. appeal for regime change is coupled with far-reaching sanctions against the Damascus government, including a ban on imports of Syrian oil.

President Barack Obama began the diplomatic effort with a written statement condemning the Syrian leader for “ferocious brutality” against democracy protestors, including what, he called, “disgraceful” attacks on cities like Hama and Deir al-Zour.

Mr. Obama said President Assad’s calls for dialogue and reform have “rung hollow” as he imprisoned, tortured and slaughtered his own people.  He said that for the sake of the Syrian people, “the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton affirmed the call in a press appearance here.

“The people of Syria deserve a government that respects their dignity, protects their rights and lives up to their aspirations," said Clinton. "Assad is standing in their way.  For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for him to step aside and leave this transition to the Syrians themselves.

Soon after the U.S. announcement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a joint statement that by resorting to brutal military force against his own people, Mr. Assad “has lost all legitimacy and can no longer claim to lead the country.”

The Obama administration had been poised to make the call for regime change earlier this month, but reportedly delayed action pending final reform appeals to President Assad from Arab states and neighboring Turkey -- calls that went unanswered.

Secretary Clinton, who helped orchestrate the U.S.-European action, said the allies are not trying to dictate a resolution of the crisis.

“We understand the strong desire of the Syrian people that no foreign country should intervene in their struggle, and we respect their wishes," she said. "At the same time, we will do our part to support their aspiration for a Syria that is democratic, just and inclusive.”

The new sanctions announced by President Obama sharply expand on punitive measures targeted at the Syrian leader and his inner circle.  An executive order by the president freezes all Syrian government assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction, and it bans U.S. imports of Syrian petroleum products.  If as expected, the move is matched by the European Union on Friday, it will severely affect what has been the main driver Syria's economy.  

Syria expert Andrew Tabler of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy says the U.S. action makes dealings in Syrian oil politically risky for European and other companies.

“It forces a lot of their companies to make a choice," said Tabler. "Do they continue their relatively small Syrian business or purchases of Syrian crude, or do they maintain their relationship with the United States?  These kinds of sanctions push those companies into those kind of dilemmas.”

Analyst Ed Husain of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations says that calling on Mr. Assad to step down weakens opposition members who will now be seen as stooges of the United States.  He adds that Mr. Assad’s departure would trigger instability in a country that is a patchwork of ethnic alliances.

“It’s a country that is divided along sectarian lines hugely," said Husain. "And Assad’s party and Assad’s family - whether we like it [or not], it’s an ugly truth - have held that country together.  And they know if Assad falls, there will be a bloodbath between the Alawis and Druze, the other minorities as well as the Sunni majority.  And for those reasons, I think at least in the short term, Bashar al-Assad remains the least worst option.”

Omar al-Issawi, Middle East and North Africa Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch says that although his organization takes no position on the call for regime change, he hopes it will increase international pressure for accountability on Syrian human rights abuses.

“Our prime concern is for the [Syrian] regime to put an end to the very serious, grave, human rights violations that have been taking place against overwhelmingly peaceful protestors," said al-Issawi. "We hope that the authorities in Syria follow up on the declaration of President Assad yesterday, when he said military operations have stopped.”

The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold an emergency session on Syria on Monday in Geneva.  

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs