Remarks at the Ad Hoc Ministerial Meeting on Syria
Secretary of State
Let me just make a few comments. First, we continue to support the monitoring mission, even though we are aware that the increased violence could jeopardize the deployment of the monitors and put their lives at risk. So we’re in a dilemma. We think it’s important to get independent sources of observation and reporting on the ground, but we do not want to create a situation where those who are sent in to do this mission themselves are subjected to violence. So we need to continue to work and move toward a Security Council authorization so that we have the authority to proceed when the times are right.
Secondly, I think we have to do more to take tougher actions against the Assad regime. We need to start moving very vigorously in the Security Council for a Chapter 7 sanctions resolution, including travel, financial sanctions, an arms embargo, and the pressure that that will give us on the regime to push for compliance with Kofi Annan’s six-point plan.
Now, I’m well aware that at this point such an effort is still likely to be vetoed, but we need to look for a way to keep pressing forward. I met at length with Sergey Lavrov earlier today in Brussels. He was, as usual, very intent upon laying responsibility on all sides, and in particular on the opposition, but he also has recognized that we are not in a static situation but a deteriorating one.
Next, we have to keep Assad off balance by leaving options on the table. And Turkey already has discussed with NATO during our ministerial over the last two days the burden of Syrian refugees on Turkey, the outrageous shelling across the border from Syria into Turkey a week ago, and that Turkey is considering formally invoking Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which triggers consultations in NATO whenever the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any of the parties is threatened.
I also believe we have to increase our support for the opposition. I can only speak for the United States. I know that others are pursuing different types of support. But we are expanding our communications, logistics, and other support for the Syrian opposition. And in cooperation with Turkey, we are considering establishing an assistance hub that will try to co-locate Syrian activists and help them coordinate the collection and distribution of assistance to opposition groups inside Syria. And we do have continuing dialogue among our high-level officials with the Syrian National Council.
Next, I want to thank you, Alain, and your team for hosting the Sanctions Working Group in Paris here two days ago. About 50 countries attended. They agreed to expand the coalition of countries imposing financial sanctions, expand the scope of the sanctions, and improve the effectiveness of the existing measures by reaching out to the private sector. The next meeting will be co-chaired by the United States and hosted in Washington, likely in mid May.
We also need to strengthen our humanitarian assistance. We’ve done more over the last month than we had before, but it is still not adequate. And we have to stay in very close touch with Turkey and Jordan about their humanitarian needs because they’re bearing the burden of caring for the refugees, and the rest of us need to help them. I think it’s also important to hear from both Turkey and Jordan about how they see the situation. I was very pleased that Ahmet was able to brief the G-8 ministers at the meeting I hosted last week and then brief the NATO ministers at our dinner last night.
And finally, we are working to establish an accountability clearinghouse in order to keep track of all of the terrible stories of abuses and crimes against humanity that are coming out of Syria. We think collecting that information can be a useful means of not only keeping track for future purposes but also sending a message to those in the regime and those in the military that they are being watched and a record is being kept.
So I think, Alain, this is a timely moment, because the Security Council is meeting as we speak. And we should, I hope, come to some resolution about what further action we wish out of the Security Council, despite even the fact that the first time around it might not be successful. But we should be, as we say, laying down markers about what is expected.