News / Middle East

US Applauds Founding of Syrian Opposition Coalition

From left: Ahmed Ramadan, Bassma Kodmani, Abdulbaset Seida and Imad Aldeen Rashid speak as a group of Syrian opposition members announce a Syrian National Council in Istanbul, Turkey, September 15, 2011.
From left: Ahmed Ramadan, Bassma Kodmani, Abdulbaset Seida and Imad Aldeen Rashid speak as a group of Syrian opposition members announce a Syrian National Council in Istanbul, Turkey, September 15, 2011.

The United States has welcomed the formation on Thursday of an umbrella group of Syrian opposition figures, the self-proclaimed Syrian National Council. The group, meeting in Istanbul, said it aims to help topple the Damascus government within six months and form an interim administration.  

The Obama administration, which a month ago called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to “step aside,” is welcoming the formation of the opposition coalition whose professed aim is to oust Syria's government.

Capping a four-day meeting in Istanbul, a diverse array of Assad government opponents said it has chosen a 140-member Syrian National Council of whom about half are activists inside Syria and were not publicly identified.

A spokesman for the group, French-based Syrian exile Basma Kadmani, said the council hopes to see the fall of the Assad government within six months and to form a transitional administration.

The Istanbul meeting marked the six-month anniversary of the beginning of the uprising against the Syrian government.

At a news briefing here, State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner declined the draw a parallel between the Syrian group and the National Transitional Council that replaced Moammar Gadhafi's government in Libya.  But Toner made clear that the United States welcomes the effort to unify the Syrian opposition even as, he said, the Damascus government continues to hunt down, oppress and kill its opponents.

“We applaud these efforts," said Toner. "We look forward to the opposition strengthening as it agrees on things like a unified leadership structure, as it builds consensus and articulates a vision for the future of Syria that incorporates rule-of-law, government by consent of the people and equal rights, as well as economic opportunities for all of Syria's citizens.”

Toner said the United States maintains contact with a wide range of Syrian opposition figures in that country and abroad, but that the U.S. role is not to dictate or direct their actions and policies.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met here early last month with a delegation of Syrian American and exiled Syrian government opponents.  Two weeks later, President Barack Obama condemned Syrian President Assad for “ferocious brutality” against democracy protestors, saying it is time for him to step aside.

The Obama administration has imposed targeted sanctions against more than 30 Syrian government officials, including President Assad, banned U.S. imports of Syrian oil and gas, and frozen all Syrian government assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction.

On Thursday, the State Department tightened its travel warning for Syria.  Citing political volatility, it urged U.S. citizens now in Syria to leave immediately while commercial transportation is still available.  It advised other Americans to defer all travel to the country.

Earlier this year, the State Department ordered nonessential U.S. embassy personnel and family members to leave Syria.  But the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, remains at his post.  Officials here say he has few contacts with senior Syrian officials, but that he meets with civil society members and, when possible, opposition activists.  

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

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs