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

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs