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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs