Washington — The United States is appealing to pro-government business, religious and military figures in Syria to withdraw their support from the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to avoid civil war.
“As bad as the Assad regime is, it could get worse,” Clinton said in Copenhagen, Denmark, May 31. “We … call upon the business leadership, the religious leadership, the military leadership … to stand up now and call a halt to further support for this regime.” If the status quo continues, Syria will fall into a “sectarian civil war.”
Clinton said the United States is working with the international community to alleviate suffering while supporting the mission of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to negotiate a cease-fire as a first step to launching a political transition that would result in the emergence of a democratic government.
The secretary said Russia is “propping up” the Assad regime at a time that it should be working on a political transition.
At the United Nations in New York on May 31, U.S. representative Susan Rice criticized Russia for sending a ship laden with arms to the Syrian government. The ship is reported to have docked at the Syrian port Tartous during the past weekend.
“This is obviously of the utmost concern, given that the Syrian government continues to use deadly force against civilians,” Rice said. “It is not technically … a violation of international law since there’s not an arms embargo, but it’s reprehensible that arms would continue to flow to a regime that is using such horrific and disproportionate force against its own people.”
Rice said the Syrian government is going to have to feel much greater pressure, particularly from its partners and supporters, to fulfill its commitments to the Annan plan “because, up to date, it hasn’t felt sufficient compulsion to do so.”