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)
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid