Clinton: Syria Won't Be Peaceful Until Assad Is Gone

Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was at the United Nations in New York City on Thursday to lay out his ideas for salvaging a peace plan for Syria. There are about 300 unarmed U.N. monitors in the country, but the violence has continued and none of the six points in the peace plan are holding.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. In Syria, there is news of another massacre, and at the United Nations urgent meetings on what to do. U.N. officials say their unarmed observers came under fire in a village near the central city of Hama as they tried to reach the scene of the latest violence. Opposition activists say as many as 78 people were killed, many of them women and children, by Syrian troops and allied militiamen.

The Syrian government denies responsibility. All of this, as international envoy Kofi Annan is trying to salvage his peace plan. The former U.N. secretary-general was in New York today, describing what he admits is a tough job. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Though Syria disputes the reports of the latest massacre in a village near Hama, diplomats were quick to condemn Damascus. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls the killings shocking and sickening, with some of the victims allegedly burned and slashed with knives.

BAN KI-MOON: We condemn this unspeakable barbarity and renew our determination to bring those responsible to account.

KELEMEN: Ban says any regime that tolerates the killing of innocents has lost its fundamental humanity. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also seized on the latest reports to renew a call on President Bashar al-Assad to give up power.

SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: Assad has doubled down on his brutality and duplicity, and Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable, or certainly democratic until Assad goes.

KELEMEN: The peace plan that former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has struggled to implement calls for a political transition in Syria, but Annan told the U.N. general assembly today, so far his plan is not being implemented. He would like to see world powers and regional players come together in a new contact group to help him persuade Assad to start complying with the peace plan.

KOFI ANNAN: For the sake of the people of Syria who are living through this nightmare, the international community must come together and act as one.

KELEMEN: For that he needs Russia's help, and Moscow is suggesting that another of Syria's allies, Iran, be brought in as well. Russia's ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, says his country wants to mobilize key outside players who can have a real impact. Through an interpreter, he complained about unilateral actions, including sanctions on the Assad regime and support for the opposition.

VITALY CHURKIN: (Through interpreter) The categorical demands for an immediate regime change are simply going nowhere. It is wrong to rely on support of those opposition groups which can find nothing better to do than to call for foreign military intervention in their own country from those in foreign capitals.

KELEMEN: Iran's ambassador followed him, saying that his country stands ready to take part in a political process as long as it is, quote, "unbiased." Secretary Clinton has already brushed off that idea, saying it's hard to imagine including Iran, which is, as she puts it, stage-managing the Assad regime's assault on its people.

Here's how Clinton, who spoke in Istanbul today, wants to see the diplomacy play out.

CLINTON: First, the Syrian government must implement all six points of the Annan initiative, including a real ceasefire agreed to and observed by all parties. Second, Assad must transfer power and depart Syria. Third, an interim representative government must be established through negotiation.

KELEMEN: She sent one of her advisors to Moscow to talk about the need for a political solution and is to meet Kofi Annan at the State Department Friday. The joint U.N. and Arab League envoy is warning that the conflict will only get harder to resolve as time goes on.

ANNAN: The country is becoming more polarized and more radicalized, and Syria's immediate neighbors are increasingly worried about the threat of spillover.

KELEMEN: And Annan says the world cannot allow mass killings to become part of the everyday reality in Syria. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.