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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    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.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora