WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Syria cannot be peaceful, stable or democratic with President Bashar al-Assad in power.
Speaking to reporters Thursday in Istanbul, Clinton said Assad has “doubled down on his brutality and duplicity” and that the time has come for the international community to plan for a post-Assad Syria.
“We have to unite the international community behind a plan that is achievable and keeps faith with those inside Syria who are protesting and demonstrating, suffering and dying for their universal human rights,” Clinton said.
Her comments come as United Nations-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan is due to brief the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly on the situation in Syria, as activists have accused pro-government militia and security forces of carrying out a new massacre in the central province of Hama.
The activists said at least 78 people, including women and children, were killed on Wednesday. They said some of those killed in the villages of al-Kubeir and Maazarif were stabbed to death and at least 12 bodies were burned.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ’shabiha’ militiamen armed with guns and knives carried out the attack after regular troops had shelled the area.
The exiled opposition Syrian National Council called on the Free Syrian Army and other armed opposition groups to respond by escalating their resistance.
British Prime Minister David Cameron called the reported attack “brutal and sickening,” and said if true, then the international community must do more to condemn “absolutely” the government of President Assad.
The Syrian government blamed a terrorist group for the violence.
New rescue plan
Meanwhile, diplomats say U.N.-Arab League mediator Annan is preparing to present the Security Council with a new proposal to rescue his failing peace plan for Syria.
They said Annan’s new plan would establish a “contact group” for Syria that would include the five permanent members of the Security Council and key regional players with influence on Damascus or the opposition, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Iran. The group would attempt to map out a “political transition” leading to President Assad’s departure and the holding of free elections.
Annan is scheduled to meet with Secretary Clinton Friday in Washington.
The top U.S. diplomat arrived in Istanbul late Wednesday to co-chair a meeting on Syria with her Western and Arab colleagues.
A senior U.S. State Department official said after the meeting that Clinton stated the need for greater pressure on Assad’s government and its supporters, adding that the possibility of invoking Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter — which could authorize the use of force — remains on the table “at an appropriate time.” She also said the international community must improve coordination among those countries providing direct assistance to the Syrian opposition.
U.S. officials said special envoy for Syria Fred Hoff will go to Moscow Thursday, and France will host a Friends of Syria meeting in Paris on July 6, which Secretary Clinton is expected to attend. Turkey will also host a meeting in mid-June with the opposition and relevant governments.
Meanwhile, senior U.S. officials warned Syria and its backers that tougher international action against Assad’s government could follow unless Damascus demonstrates “meaningful compliance” with U.N. efforts to end the violence.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Wednesday the administration and its allies could soon tighten sanctions against the Syrian government and its leaders. He spoke to representatives from 55 countries gathered in Washington to discuss increasing pressure on Assad and his top officials.
Source: VOA News