Clinton calls for more international action against Syria's Assad
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to bolster America's largely symbolic sanctions. But while Syrian allies such as Russia have lobbied hard for reforms, few appear eager to apply sanctions.
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last night called on other countries to follow the US lead in sanctioning Syria, seeking to bolster America's largely symbolic move against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Washington ratcheted up the pressure Wednesday night by placing fresh sanctions on Syria's main bank and the telecommunications industry. But the US has few economic ties with Syria and thus little leverage in practice.
"We're going to sanction, and we have been upping the sanctions. We're going to continue to do so," said Mrs. Clinton in a CBS interview. "But we want others to follow, because Syria [is] not one of our major economic partners."
Secretary Clinton called for sanctions from European, regional, and Asian economic partners – particularly those with hefty investments in Syria oil and gas industry – saying they were crucial for ending Mr. Assad's violent crackdown on a five-month uprising against his authoritarian rule.
President Barack Obama spoke with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Syria's largest trading partner, on Thursday and the two agreed that the two countries would work together closely as they decide future steps on Syria. According to the Washington Post, the two said the violence must cease immediately and that demands for a democratic transition have to be met.
Earlier this week, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu traveled to Damascus in a last-ditch effort to persuade its one-time ally to refrain from violence. He gave Mr. Assad less than two weeks to meet international demands for democratic reform, Lebanon's Daily Star reports.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reportedly informed Assad of the need to implement an internationally drafted plan for reforms, a plan that carried a ten-day deadline. Otherwise, Western powers would consider passing a U.N. Security Council resolution that could pave the way for military action in Syria, similar to Libya.
The reforms would include the approval of a new electoral law under which all parties and factions would participate in the polls, without threats or intervention from security forces, the sources added.
Russia also pressured Damascus this week to make good on promised reforms.
"What we are telling them is that they need to have serious reforms as soon as possible, even though we do realize that it takes time, especially in a dramatic situation like this, you simply cannot carry out reforms overnight," said Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, on Wednesday night.
But as a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, Russia has rejected sanctions against Syria – including a weapons sales ban suggested by Clinton – and shows no sign of a change of heart, Reuters reports.