Middle East News
Clinton warns al-Assad against stalling on peace plan
Apr 1, 2012, 17:29 GMT
Istanbul - US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday that he could not continue delaying implementation of a plan by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to end the violence in Syria.
'There has to be a time limit, he (al-Assad) would be mistaken to believe there is no time limit,' Clinton told a press conference after an international meeting on Syria in Istanbul.
'Assad must go and the Syrian people must be free to decide their own future,' she said.
Annan's plan calls for a ceasefire to be monitored by UN observers, humanitarian access and talks between al-Assad's government and the opposition.
The second International Friends of Syria meeting ended with the 83 nations and organizations present agreeing to recognize the Syrian National Council (SNC) as representing all Syrian opposition groups.
'We have seen that they are becoming better organized and more broad based, the SNC is the only legitimate Syrian opposition organization,' Clinton said, adding that different countries have agreed to aid the SNC in different ways.
'We have agreed to support the SNC by supplying communications equipment to enable activists to organize safely,' she said, stating that US officials were in daily contact with the SNC.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: 'We recognize the SNC as the representatives of all Syrians, as the umbrella organization for all Syrian opposition groups and as the sole interlocutor for the Syrian people,'
The United States is providing an additional 12.2 million dollars in humanitarian assistance to support the people of Syria, bringing the total amount of US emergency aid to nearly 25 million dollars.
The State Department said the assistance includes medical supplies and other humanitarian relief for the displaced and vulnerable.
SNC head Burhan Ghalioun called on the international community to step up and 'meet its responsibilities.'
'It is 'high noon,' time to move from words to actions,' he told the Istanbul gathering.
'The Syrian people will no longer accept oppression and violence, the regime will fall and we will not forget those who supported us, or those who failed to stand alongside us,' he said.
Ghalioun denied that the opposition remains divided. 'We have brought together all of the factions. We are completely united in our aims and causes, and have worked together to design a new constitution and parliament to meet the needs of all Syrians,' he said.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the conference with a call for a 'moral intervention' in Syria.
'We need a moral intervention, we must ensure our consciences prevail. No other concerns, no other interests must interfere,' he said.
Turkey, which shares a 1,910-kilometre-long border with Syria, is home to some 17,000 Syrian refugees.
Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi said it was necessary for the United Nations Security Council to issue a binding resolution that violence should be 'immediately' stopped. This would be followed by sending in international observers to monitor a ceasefire.
'The time factor has a priority,' he told the forum. Russia and China, key allies of al-Assad, have previously vetoed two UN resolutions against al-Assad.
The UN estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since a pro-democracy uprising started in March 2011.
The first conference of Friends of the Syrian People was held in February in Tunisia.
At least 70 people were killed by Syrian government forces on Sunday, the opposition local coordination committees said.
Most of the deaths occurred in the central provinces of Homs and Hama, it said.
Four soldiers were killed when army defectors attacked a military convoy in the northern province of Idlib, near the Syrian border with Turkey, said the Britian-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
News from Syria is hard to verify as the government bars most foreign media from restive areas.
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