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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid