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

    Video Somali, AU Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    Somalia’s Western backers frustrated over country’s slow progress in establishing its armed forces to bring security after 25 years of chaos

    Israel Makes Push for Gaza Strip Recovery

    After years of economic blockade and attempts to disable Hamas, Israeli leaders eventually realized that Hamas’ downfall could lead to chaos or the rise of a more radical Jihadist group

    Slump in Chinese Tourists Hitting Hong Kong Retail

    Mainland Chinese account for up to three-quarters of visitors to Hong Kong, but that number is falling, and shopping centers are struggling to 'shift gears' and maintain sales

    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.
    Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shababi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    April 28, 2016 4:20 PM
    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Town Receives Refugees but Lacks Resources

    A wave of refugees is pouring into the Kurdish town of Afrin in northern Syria as a result of fighting between rebel forces and Islamic State militants. VOA’s Amina Misto went to the town and reports local authorities are finding it difficult to cope with this influx of internally displaced people. Bronwyn Benito narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Build Human Tissue on Animal Matrix

    The question has always been, if a gecko can grow back its tail, why can't we regenerate our lost body parts? Well, maybe we can, someday. Scientists are moving towards the ability to rebuild fully functioning organs, and have made significant progress replacing muscles and other tissue.
    Video

    Video Containing Chernobyl Radiation Continues 30 Years After Explosion

    April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Hundreds were killed following the explosion and it's estimated that thousands more have died from cancers caused by the radiation. Henry Ridgwell traveled to Chernobyl and reports for VOA on the continuing efforts to decommission the site -- and on the fledgling plans for a new future in the vast exclusion zone.
    Video

    Video Frustration Builds Among Refugees Trapped at Macedonian Border

    On the Greek border with Macedonia, 12,000 refugees continue to wait. Since the route to the rest of Europe was closed last month, the makeshift camp at Idomeni has seen protests and tear gas. But while those here wait, their frustration grows — as do reports of people attempting to find new ways of continuing their journey. John Owens reports from Idomeni.
    Video

    Video Researchers: Bees Help Kenyan Farmers Fend Off Elephants

    Elephant crop-raiding continues to be a major source of human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, so one elephant researcher is helping to alleviate the problem near Tsavo East National Park with beehive fences, which use elephants’ natural aversion to bees to deter them from farms. VOA’s Jill Craig visited the area ahead of this month's Giants Club Summit, which will bring together dignitaries at Mount Kenya to find solutions to combat poaching, the No. 1 threat to elephants.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora