News / Middle East

US Tells Syrians to Reject Amnesty Offer

Anti-government protesters carry the coffins of Sunni Muslim villagers killed on Wednesday, in Hula near Homs November 2, 2011.
Anti-government protesters carry the coffins of Sunni Muslim villagers killed on Wednesday, in Hula near Homs November 2, 2011.

The United States Wednesday again advised opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad not to accept a government offer of amnesty if they surrender weapons. Syria alleges the stance signals U.S. support for armed insurrection, which the United States denies.

The initial U.S. admonition against the amnesty offer late last week drew an angry response from the Syrian Foreign Ministry.

But the State Department reaffirmed its position Wednesday, saying opponents would be “unwise” to accept the offer, given the Assad government’s brutal track record.

The Damascus government, in tandem with its nominal acceptance of an Arab League peace plan for the country, last week said it was giving armed protestors a week to turn themselves in along with their weapons.

The government said those who surrendered and had not killed anyone would be released in a short time.

In a dismissive comment last Friday, a State Department spokeswoman said she would not advise anyone to turn himself in to Damascus authorities - drawing a Syrian charge the United States was encouraging sedition murder and terrorism.

Briefing reporters Wednesday, State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said the United States does not condone violence in Syria and stands by its advice on the amnesty.

“We believe it would be unwise for regime opponents to turn themselves in, quite simply put, given the Assad regime’s track record of lawlessness, torture and thuggery against the opposition," said Toner. "We don’t believe that it’s in anyone’s interest to turn themselves in voluntarity to the Assad regime.”

Toner said the hostile Syrian reaction to the U.S. comments was part of an effort by Damascus authorities to inject the United States into a conflict that he said is really between  the Syrian government and its own people.

Human rights groups say some 3,500 civilians, mostly peaceful demonstrators, have been killed in Syrian unrest since the pro-democratic campaign began in March. The Assad government says armed groups are driving the unrest and that hundreds of security personnel have been killed.

In U.S. Senate Sub-Committee testimony Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said the United States intends to work with friends and allies to tighten political and economic pressure on President Assad, while supporting Syria’s non-violent opposition.

He said the Syrian leader, head of what he termed a “family-led mafia that’s hijacked the state,” is trying to turn the peaceful protest movement into an insurgency.

“He knows how to deal with violence. He just uses violence against violence," said Feltman. "What confounds him is this phenomenon of protestors yelling ‘peaceful, peaceful,’ of shopkeepers closing their shops in solidarity with the protestors. That’s what really puts Bashar al-Assad in a bind. And that’s why we’ve been encouraging the opposition, despite the tremendous brutality they’re facing, to keep to the peaceful principles to which they’ve subscribed.”

The State Department’s chief Middle East expert said the Syrian leader has become a regional pariah and can’t last in office indefinitely.

Feltman said U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, recently withdrawn from Syria over security threats, will return to his post soon.

Ford has drawn the ire of Syrian authorities for meeting with Syrian opposition figures and paying an unauthorized visit to the protest hotbed city of Hama last July.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid