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

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs