U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday that the international community must give international peace envoy Kofi Annan the “last amount of support” that can be mustered, while also calling for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The regime sponsored violence that we witnessed in Hama yesterday (Wednesday) is simply unconscionable,” she said at a news conference in Istanbul with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Clinton said the latest onslaught of violence sponsored by the regime in Syria was “unconscionable” and that Assad must go.
“Assad must transfer power and depart Syria,” she said after a late night strategy session with Arab and Western powers on how to increase the pressure on the Damascus regime and bring about political change.
Clinton acknowledged that the United States had not yet been successful in bringing about international action that would have an impact on Assad.
“We have to reiterate our unity, we have to send a clear message to other nations that are not yet working with us, or even actively supporting the Assad regime, that there is no future in that,” she said.
“And indeed planning for an orderly transition will be an important step.”
Annan to propose new plan
Annan will on Thursday will propose tasking a group of world powers and key regional players to come up with a strategy to end the 15-month conflict, U.N. diplomats said.
Annan is to present a plan to the United Nations which will involve creating a “contact group” whose final proposal must be acceptable to Syria’s allies Russia and China, the Associated Press reported.
The joint U.N.-Arab League envoy will give his latest assessment of the Syrian conflict at an open meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday morning along with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, and a representative of U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay.
In recent months, the Syrian regime has not shown signs of adhering to all six points of the Annan plan: an immediate ceasefire; an end to all forms of violence; tanks and armored vehicles out of civilian areas; humanitarian access to all regions; the freeing of political prisoners and protesters; and access by the media to all parts of the country.
Opposition activist groups have called on Annan to admit the plan’s failure as death tolls mount on a daily basis across Syria, mostly blamed by the opposition on Syrian security force violence.
More than 13,000 people have been killed, mostly civilians, since an uprising erupted against Assad’s regime in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
There has also been talk about a meeting of key world leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Mexico later this month to discuss the growing crisis in Syria and possible next steps, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations have been private.
The violence in Syria has grown increasingly chaotic in recent months, and it is difficult to assign blame for much of the bloodshed. The government restricts journalists from moving freely, making it nearly impossible to independently verify accounts from either side. The opposition blames government forces and militias that support them known as Shabiha while the government blames rebels and “armed terrorist groups.”
At the U.N., diplomats are increasingly concerned that the country is spiraling toward civil war.
Annan will then brief the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors Thursday afternoon and have dinner with ambassadors from the council’s five permanent nations - the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France, a council diplomat said.
Reports by Syrian activists of a surge of bloodshed in the central Hama province late Wednesday, with at least 100 reportedly people killed, are bound to reinforce the growing belief that Annan’s six-point peace plan is unraveling.
The violence comes on the heels of a horrific massacre on May 25 and 26 in Houla, a cluster of villages in the central Homs province, which left over 100 dead including many women and children gunned down in their homes. U.N. investigators blamed pro-government gunmen for at least some of the killings but the Syrian regime denied responsibility and blamed rebels for the attacks.
Russia and China, however, who have vetoed two resolutions threatening possible sanctions, issued a joint statement after a summit in Beijing reiterating their opposition to any outside military interference or forceful imposition of “regime change” in Syria. The statement also indicated opposition to U.N. sanctions.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that Moscow is proposing an international conference on Syria to try to persuade all Syrian opposition groups to respect Annan’s plan, end all violence and sit down for talks.
“Russia considers it essential to fulfill Kofi Annan’s peace plan along with the U.N. Security Council resolution that approved this plan,” Lavrov said in remarks posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.