News / Middle East

US Skeptical of Assad Constitutional Offer to End Violence, Uprising

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L), shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R), as Russian Foreign Intelligence chief Mikhail Fradkov (2nd R) looks on during their meeting in Damascus, Syria, February 7, 2012.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L), shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R), as Russian Foreign Intelligence chief Mikhail Fradkov (2nd R) looks on during their meeting in Damascus, Syria, February 7, 2012.

Syria says it is drawing up a new constitution as government forces continue to bombard opponents of President Bashar al-Assad. The Obama administration says Assad's plans for a constitutional referendum fall short of the democratic aspirations that have fueled an 11-month uprising.

Assad met Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who told reporters in Damascus that he is trying to resolve the political crisis in Syria based on Arab League calls for a national unity government and early elections.

Assad said parliamentary voting would follow ratification of a new constitution, the drafting of which Syrian state TV says is now complete.

But U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said President Assad's promises of political change are harder to believe, as his forces continue to bombard civilians.

"You can understand that the international community as a whole would be pretty skeptical if, instead of focusing on ending the violence, what we seem to have is a re-upping of this same offer that Assad has been making for months and months and months that he would put forward some sort of constitutional referendum and have people vote on it," said Nuland.

Nuland said the offer appears to fall short of the democratic aspirations of his opponents.

"It sounds like another promise by the Assad regime to put forward a piece of paper that they control for a vote that they can control. And frankly, how that gets us to the kind of peaceful national dialogue about a democratic future for Syria that we all want to see is not very clear," said Nuland.

The Russian foreign minister said Assad is ready for talks with all political forces and is prepared to put an end to violence "regardless of where it may come from."

Nuland said it is Syrian government forces that must stop attacking civilians.

"If, in fact, Assad supports the end of violence, he knows what he can do today, which he has neglected to do for these 11 months. He can stop the attacks by his forces on innocents in cities across Syria," said Nuland.

Lavrov and Assad appear to be working off a November Arab League plan that does not include subsequent calls for the president to step down. That provision, in part, led to Saturday's Russian and Chinese veto of a United Nations Security Council resolution backing the latest Arab League plan.

Blocked at the U.N., the Obama administration is organizing a "Friends of Syria" group to deepen President Assad's diplomatic isolation, increase sanctions, and bring pressure on countries that are still supplying weapons to the Syrian army, principally Russia.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the "Friends of Syria" plan with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the Munich Security Conference. European nations including Britain, France, and Germany are on board, as are many members of the Arab League.

Brookings Institution visiting fellow Khaled Elgindy said it is a bold move by members of the largely-conservative Arab League, which are unaccustomed to standing up to fellow member states, especially one as prominent as Syria.

"We’ve seen individual states like Tunisia and Libya have initiated the process of expelling their Syrian ambassadors in those countries. So I think there are still things that Arab League member states - I think - can do individually or collectively to further isolate Syria. I think that will be the next phase of collective Arab action - to try to isolate Syria more diplomatically," said Elgindy.

State Department spokeswoman Nuland said the "Friends of Syria" group also will look to provide humanitarian relief and political support for Assad opponents.

But she would not say whether Washington's support extends to the rebel Free Syrian Army - echoing Obama's insistence that the conflict be resolved without military intervention, and drawing a distinction between the "Friends of Syria" and the Libya Contact Group that ultimately led to NATO air strikes against Moammar Gadhafi.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid