The United States showed its support for the Arab League proposal calling on the United Nations to invoke tougher sanctions against the Syrian regime.
“We hope that all responsible countries will soon join in taking appropriate actions against the Syrian regime, including, if necessary, Chapter 7 action in the U.N. Security Council, as called for by the Arab League last weekend,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
The U.S. is focused on boosting international economic sanctions against Syria “that can help hasten the day the President Bashar al-Assad regime relinquishes power,” Geithner said.
At a meeting on Saturday in Doha, Arab League ministers urged the United Nations to invoke Chapter 7 of United Nations charter to raise pressure on Damascus.
But both the Arab League and the United States have consistently opposed international military intervention in the Syrian crisis.
“We have not asked for any military action,” Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said on Saturday.
Russia’s proposal for a meeting
In related news, Russia appeared to do a U-turn from its statement on Tuesday ─ in which it had said that it was ready to support a peace plan that did not feature Assad in power.
On Wednesday, Russia and its ally China reaffirmed their stance on Syria, saying they would not seek any military intervention in the crisis country or a change of regime.
On the same day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for an international meeting to discuss the Syrian crisis with Western states and influential regional powers Iran and Turkey in a bid to keep a peace plan afloat amid blunt calls against military intervention.
“We think it is necessary to call a meeting of countries that truly have an influence on various opposition groups,” Lavrov said, citing the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the Arab League, the European Union, Turkey and Iran.
Clinton rebuffs Russia’s proposal
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, said she would reserve judgment on the Russian proposal.
“It’s hard to imagine inviting a country (Iran) that is stage managing the Assad regime’s assault on its people,” she said at the end of a visit to Azerbaijan.
Meanwhile, Clinton arrived in Istanbul on Wednesday to strategize with 15 regional and European powers on how to halt the violence in Syria and remove President Bashar al-Assad from power.
“It’s clear that President (Bashar) al-Assad cannot and has failed to bring peace, stability or positive change for the Syrian people,” she said at a news conference in Baku before flying here.
Among the issues she intended to discuss in Istanbul were “essential elements of democratization” in Syria, as well as additional measures to increase pressure on the Syrian regime and alleviate the suffering of its people, she said.
The Syrian regime angered the international community when it was blamed for the massacre of at least 100 people, including children and women, in al-Houla, a town near the central city of Homs, despite a ceasefire agreement with the United Nations.
Russia and China have blocked Western and Arab efforts to condemn President Assad and push him from power during nearly 15 months of bloodshed in which his government has killed more than 9,000 people, according to U.N. estimates. Syrian opposition groups, however, estimate the figure to be 13,000.
The Local Coordination Committees (LCC) and the Syrian Revolution Council (SRC) reported that at least 35 Syrians were killed across the country on Wednesday. Clashes between the Syrian troops and rebels in al-Abbasiyeen area in Damascus were also reported by the LCC. Sounds of explosions, shelling and gunshots were heard, the group added.