News / Middle East

Tunis Conference Aims to Pressure Syria's Assad on Aid, Political Change

Kuwait Foreign Affairs Minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, arrives in Tunis, on February 23, 2012, to participate in the conference dedicated to the crisis in Syria.
Kuwait Foreign Affairs Minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, arrives in Tunis, on February 23, 2012, to participate in the conference dedicated to the crisis in Syria.

Multimedia

Audio
Al Pessin

Representatives of more than 70 countries and organizations are gathering outside the Tunisian capital, Tunis, for a conference Friday aimed at supporting the Syrian opposition. Getting aid to civilians caught up in Syria's violence will be high on the agenda.

The officials are gathering for the first meeting of what is now called the Friends of the Syrian People -- a movement that came in reaction to the Russian and Chinese vetoes of a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have condemned the Syrian government.

The group lacks the Security Council's authority, but hopes to use a combination of pressure and persuasion to convince Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to allow humanitarian aid and agree to end his family's more than 30-year monopoly on power.

It will be a difficult task.  Mr. Assad already has defied the Arab League, which is a leader of the movement, and the U.N. General Assembly -- intensifying his military campaign against pro-democracy activists that unofficial reports say has killed thousands of civilians.

En route to the Tunis meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the conference will reflect the international consensus for change in Syria, and that she hopes it will put enough pressure on the Syrian leader to convince him to change.

"We see a lot of developments that we think are pointing to pressure on Assad.  We hope it'll pressure him to make the right decision regarding humanitarian assistance.  But in the event that he continues to refuse, we think that the pressure will continue to build.  So it's a fluid situation.  But if I were a betting person for the medium-term and certainly the long-term, I would be betting against Assad," Clinton said.

A senior State Department official traveling to the conference with the secretary told reporters that participants will issue a challenge to President Assad to allow international aid into areas his troops have cut off from the outside world while residents suffer daily artillery barrages.  The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the conference will also express support for the Arab League transition plan for Syria that would replace Mr. Assad with a council and lead to elections.  He said it will also expand ties with the main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, and will seek ways to increase pressure on the Assad government through better focused and coordinated sanctions.

The official would not say whether the gathering will discuss arming Syrian opposition forces in the border areas.  But he said it might agree to provide some communications equipment to counter the government's cutoff of telephone and Internet networks.  He said Secretary Clinton discussed such moves with her counterparts in London on Thursday on the sidelines of a meeting about the Somalia crisis.

Clinton said that Friday's conference is aimed in part at Syria's key supporters.

"The pressure will build on countries like Russia and China because the world opinion is not going to stand idly by.  Arab opinion is not going to be satisfied, watching two nations -- one for commercial reasons, one for commercial and ideological reasons -- boost a regime that is defying every rule of modern international norms," she said.

Officials say they hope a unified international approach and an engaged Syrian opposition movement will convince President Assad to change his policies.  But some opposition members say Western and Arab countries must moderate their approach, and bring China and Russia into the process, if they are to have any chance of ending the violence and achieving political change in Syria.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
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 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 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.

VOA Blogs