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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.