Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lashed out at Syria for not accepting Kofi Annan’s peace plan as the “Friends of Syria” conference in Istanbul this weekend urged the former U.N. secretary-general to attach a timetable to the plan.
Syrian President Bashar Assad promised Annan last week that his government would abide by the peace plan, which includes a U.N.- supervised ceasefire, pulling out soldiers and heavy weapons from cities, the release of pro-democracy activists who have been detained and tortured, access for humanitarian aid to be delivered, and free movement for journalists.
“Rather than pulling back, Assad’s troops have launched new assaults,” Clinton said in Turkey. “Rather than allowing access for humanitarian aid, they have tightened their siege. And rather than beginning a political transition, the regime has crushed dozens of peaceful protests.”
Opposition activists have reported that Assad is continuing his assault, with six killed so far today.
“We can only conclude that Assad has decided to add to his long list of broken promises,” Clinton said. “So today, we called for an immediate end to the killing in Syria, and we urged the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan to set a timetable for next steps. The world will not waver. Assad must go.”
Annan is supposed to brief the U.N. Security Council on the non-progress of his peace plan today. He faces pressure not only from Clinton but the entire “Friends of Syria” conference of 83 nations.
“The window of opportunity for the regime to implement its commitments to Joint Special Envoy Annan is not open-ended,” the group said in a statement. “The Friends’ Group called upon the Joint Special Envoy to determine a timeline for next steps, including a return to the UN Security Council, if the killing continues.”
Annan has said that neither calls for a “next steps” timeline nor Saudi Arabia’s call to arm rebels are helpful.
“It is important – and he understands this, he’s an experienced negotiator – that there cannot be process for the sake of process,” Clinton said. “There has to be a timeline.”
On Sunday, Gulf states agreed to pay salaries and other costs for the Free Syrian Army, which is composed of mainly defectors from Assad’s forces.
Clinton added that the Syrian National council is becoming “more inclusive.”
“I met with a young woman who had just escaped from Homs who was bearing witness to the horrible experience that she and others had endured in the siege of Homs, and you could not listen to her without being upset by the story that she had to tell,” the secretary of state told reporters. “But the fact that she is part of the Syrian National Congress speaks volumes, because clearly those who could organize it at first were those free to do so, who were on the outside. Now as more people are leaving Syria, escaping to freedom, they are joining the SNC. So the variety and the base of the SNC is broadening, which gives it added legitimacy.”
The U.S. also announced $12 million in new humanitarian aid to Syria, bringing the total to nearly $25 million.