Clinton pushes for holding Syrian leaders to account

Clinton vowed to use the Istanbul talks to promote tighter sanctions, send more humanitarian aid to Syria.


Afp April 01, 2012

ISTANBUL: Pushing for tighter sanctions and for holding Syrian leaders to account, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined international talks here Sunday aimed at ending the bloodshed in Syria.

Clinton joined representatives from 70 European, Arab and other countries to look at ways to support the opposition delegates here in Istanbul and to apply further international pressure on President Bashar al Assad's regime.

During a stopover Saturday in Riyadh, Clinton vowed to use the Istanbul talks to promote tighter sanctions, send more humanitarian aid to Syria, and help the opposition to unify and hold those guilty of the violence to account.

The chief US diplomat also reaffirmed that Washington was looking at sending non-lethal support like communications gear and medical aid to an increasingly armed opposition, but not actually arm them.

However, in a significant difference, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are calling for arming the anti-Assad movement. Washington apparently fears putting weapons in militant hands and fuelling a civil war.

Senior US State Department officials said the United States would work with international partners to support an initiative aimed at training Syrians to gather evidence that can be used to hold perpetrators of abuses to account.

It will help the Syrians and "partner organizations to collect, collate, analyse and securely store evidence...and other information concerning human rights abuses and violations," according to a US government concept paper.

It will also make sure to protect witnesses and sources, it said.

State Department officials said the evidence could eventually be used to prosecute alleged perpetrators in Syrian or international courts.

One US official said the idea behind such an initiative is also "to put everybody inside Syria.... on notice that there are eyes on them and they will not be able to do this with impunity."

It reinforces Clinton's point to "Assad's generals and foot soldiers that they should stop obeying orders to shoot because it will be known and they will be held to account," the US official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

More than 9,000 people, UN officials estimate, have died since Assad in March last year began crushing pro-democracy protests inspired by revolutions that have swept the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen from power.

"We want to discuss how to help the Syrian people prepare to hold those responsible who have been committing these terrible acts of violence," Clinton told a press conference in the Saudi capital.

Clinton also said the US focus in Istanbul will be to "intensify" pressure from array of US, European, Canadian, Arab and Turkish sanctions on Syria, and increase humanitarian aid to the needy, despite Syrian efforts to block it.

To make the sanctions more effective, another official said, she wants to establish a "clearing house of information on who is shipping arms, money to Assad to assist him in his killing" or evading sanctions.

She will also promote using the media to "name and shame" those entities, individuals and countries evading sanctions, the official said.

Officials travelling with Clinton said the secretary would also announce an additional $9 million contribution for humanitarian assistance on top of $16 million offered already.

She also called for strengthening the unity of the opposition – including the leading Syrian National Council – and promoting their "democratic vision" so that it can "represent an alternative" to the Assad regime.

She has vowed to press the opposition "very hard" to properly represent Arabs, Kurds, Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Christians, Druze and other ethnic and religious groups.

She is due to meet with SNC President Burhan Ghalioun and four other opposition leaders, including those from outside the SNC.

In Riyadh, wary Assad could be playing for time, the United States and Gulf Arab monarchies urged Annan to produce a "timeline for next steps" if Assad fails to stop the bloodshed despite his acceptance of a peace plan.

Annan's plan calls for a commitment to stop all armed violence, a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire, media access to all areas affected by the fighting, an inclusive Syrian-led political process, a right to demonstrate, and release of arbitrarily detained people.

Annan was due to brief the UN Security Council on Monday about his efforts to have his peace plan implemented.

COMMENTS (3)

ali | 9 years ago | Reply

infact this meeting was not the friends of syria,those all are the friends of israel.

Acer | 9 years ago | Reply

And who will hold your leaders to account Your Highness?

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