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Ratcheting Up Pressure On Assad

In this Sunday, April 1, 2012 photo, Syrians chant slogans against President Bashar Assad upon the arrival of the Free Syrian Army in a neighborhood of Damascus, Syria. Government and opposition forces clashed across Syria Monday as international envoy Ko

The Friends of Syria, a group of 83 countries, announced it would ratchet up pressure on the Assad regime.

The violence in Syria continues unabated despite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s acceptance of Kofi Annan’s peace plan. Rather than allow access for humanitarian aid, Assad’s troops have tightened their siege and launched new assaults. And rather than beginning a political transition, the regime has continued to crush scores of peaceful protests.

At a recent meeting of the Friends of Syria in Istanbul, Turkey, the group of 83 countries announced it would ratchet up pressure on the Assad regime, increase its support to the Syrian National Council, and increase humanitarian aid. The U.S. will send more than 12 million dollars in additional humanitarian assistance, bringing the total U.S. humanitarian aid to date to nearly 25 million dollars.

To help Syria move toward a democratic transition, the United States will place additional sanctions on senior regime officials. Secretary Clinton announced that the United States will work with international partners to establish a Syria Accountability Clearinghouse to document, analyze and store evidence of serious violations of human rights in order to deter such conduct, to lay the foundation for future accountability, and to prepare future prosecutions by international or post-Assad Syrian courts.

To support civilian opposition groups, the United States is providing them with non-lethal assistance, including communications equipment that will help activists organize, evade attacks by the regime, and connect to the outside world.

The Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition organization, includes a wide range of groups united around a common vision for a free, democratic, and pluralistic Syria that protects the rights of all citizens. This homegrown Syrian vision was outlined in the National Covenant announced during the opposition conference in Istanbul. “It is a roadmap,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “for saving the state and its institutions from Assad’s death spiral. And it is worthy of support from the international community and from Syrians of every background.”

Kofi Annan has laid out a plan that can begin to resolve the crisis in Syria. Assad has so far not acted to honor his pledge. There is no more time for excuses or delays, said Secretary Clinton. This is the moment of truth.