“Friends of the Syrian People” Want Assad Out

Oscar Letoya, May 9, Washington – Representatives from some 60 countries, meeting in Washington June 6, reaffirmed their support for an immediate end to violence in Syria and called for increased international pressure on Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The “Friends of the Syrian People” International Working Group on Sanctions released the results of its second meeting in a statement issued the same day through the U.S. Department of the US Treasury. Qatar, Turkey and the United States co-chaired the meeting, which was hosted by the Treasury Department.

The US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in opening remarks said, “The Group reaffirmed its support for an immediate end to the violence against the Syrian people and called on all members of the international community to demonstrate solidarity with the Syrian people by implementing and enforcing measures to increase pressure on the Assad regime to fully comply with its obligations in accordance with UN and Arab League Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s Six Point plan and UNSCRs 2042 and 2043.”

Support for sanctions

The group also reaffirmed its support for sanctions outlined in the statements from its April 17 meeting in Paris and the Friends of the Syrian People’s February 24 meeting in Tunis, Tunisia.

The group said the Assad regime’s ongoing brutality is the greatest threat to the well-being of the Syrian people and emphasized that sanctions do not target Syria’s civilian population. Instead, it said, sanctions aim to increase pressure on the people and institutions responsible for the Syrian regime’s brutal repression, as well as deprive the regime of the resources it uses for this repression.

The group expressed “deep dissatisfaction” with the Assad regime’s failure to abide by its Annan Plan commitments and “grave concern” over the growing threat to regional stability. There was substantial agreement that further measures will be necessary in light of continued violence and denial of the Syrian people’s democratic aspirations.

In this regard, the group said it supports a U.N. Security Council Chapter VII resolution called for June 2 by the Arab League that would include sanctions on the Assad regime by member states, including asset freezes, travel bans, an arms embargo and other measures.

Imposing significant strain on the regime

The group recognized steps taken by participating states and called on them to fully implement and enforce existing sanctions to exert maximum pressure on the Assad regime. It recognized that while these measures are imposing significant strain on the regime, “a continued concerted multinational approach” is needed to further deprive the regime of the financial resources necessary to sustain its campaign of violent repression.

The group called on all states to:

  • Harmonize national and regional sanctions by imposing, at a minimum, an asset freeze on senior Syrian regime officials, as well as an asset freeze on and restriction of transactions with Syria’s Central Bank and its Commercial Bank to ensure their isolation from the international financial system.
  • Embargo Syrian petroleum products and ban insurance and reinsurance for shipments of Syrian petroleum products. In addition, it called on states to ban arms shipments to the Syrian regime and insurance and reinsurance for third-country arms shipments to the regime.
  • Issue guidance to their domestic financial institutions on the risks associated with doing business with Syria and to require those institutions to exercise enhanced due diligence on all transactions involving Syria, to keep the Assad regime from using deceptive financial practices to evade international sanctions.

The group further called on Syrian business leaders and others who continue to support the Assad regime to withdraw their support or face further international isolation.

Cease immediately providing any support

Deploring those states that are undermining the Annan Plan’s chances for success by providing financial, diplomatic or material support to the Assad regime, the group called on them to cease immediately providing any support that aids in “the violent repression of the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Syrian people,” the statement said.

Once the democratic transition is started, the group said, it is committed to bringing about a swift review of sanctions in order to support the reconstruction of the future Syria in coordination with the Friends of the Syrian People Working Group on Economic Reconstruction and Development.

The group reaffirmed its resolve to act collectively to restrict and sanction the Assad regime and its supporters and to share information on measures taken to increase pressure on the regime.

The International Working Group on Sanctions will meet next in Doha, Qatar, in July

Statement by US on Syria

The United States strongly condemned the outrageous targeted killings of civilians including women and children in Al-Qubeir in Hama province as reported by multiple credible sources. This, coupled with the Syrian regime’s refusal to let UN observers into the area to verify these reports, is an affront to human dignity and justice.

“There is no justification for this regime’s continued defiance of its obligations under the Annan Plan, and Assad’s continued abdication of responsibility for these horrific acts has no credibility and only further underscores the illegitimate and immoral nature of his rule, sais a US Secretary of State statement.

The future of Syria will be determined by the Syrian people, and the international community must come together in support of their legitimate aspirations. We call once more on all nations to abandon support for this brutal and illegitimate regime and to join together to support a political transition in Syria — one that upholds the promise of a future for which far too many have already died.

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