Press Availability Following the Meeting of the Action Group on Syria
Secretary of State
Kofi Annan called this meeting to mobilize the political will needed to implement his six-point plan. And after a long day of intense discussions, the next steps are clear.
First, we all agreed to support Kofi Annan’s principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led transition, including the goal of a democratic, pluralistic Syria that upholds the rule of law and respects the universal rights of all people and all communities, regardless of ethnicity, sect, or gender; maintaining the integrity of the Syrian state and its institutions; the formation of a transitional governing body exercising full executive powers, which would be broadly inclusive and chosen by mutual consent; and an inclusive and transparent Syrian-led process to review the constitution and prepare for free and multiparty elections. These are principles that have formed the basis for successful democratic transitions all over the world, and they offer the best chance for restoring peace and meeting the needs and aspirations of the Syrian people.
Second, the United States and others will carry this plan to the Friends of the Syrian People in Paris next week and seek to build even greater international consensus and momentum. As long as Assad continues to wage war against the Syrian people – and he himself now calls this a war – the international community must keep ratcheting up the pressure on the regime to halt the violence and do more to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians in need. The United States is stepping up our own efforts to get food, medicine, and emergency relief to areas hardest hit by the regime’s violence. And in Paris, we will press for more coordinated international action and aid.
Third, in the session today, I called on every nation to use all possible leverage to pressure both the regime and the opposition to accept and support the Annan plan. Those states that carry influence with the Syrian Government should insist that Assad halt the violence, accept the transition principles, and comply with his obligations under the plan. And we will do our part. At the conference hosted by the Arab League in Cairo next week, we will engage a broad cross-section of the Syrian opposition and urge them to unify around the Joint Special Envoy’s principles and to seek buy-in from every part of the Syrian community.
We recognize that Syrian dissidents and activists are working under the most difficult circumstances, as shells rain down on their homes and helicopters strafe their streets. They will be aided by a clear vision that demonstrates to all Syrians that there is a credible alternative to the Assad regime that will end the violence, protect their rights, and advance their aspirations.
Finally, we will accelerate our work in the Security Council in New York on a resolution that would reaffirm Annan’s six-point plan and the guidelines and principles adopted today, which obligates the regime to stop its attacks and pull back its troops, and impose real and immediate consequences for noncompliance, including sanctions, as the Joint Special Envoy has requested.
No one has any illusions about the difficulties ahead. We are dealing with not only a murderous regime in a combustible region, but the potential for that region to be gravely affected by the continuance of this violence. But the stakes of inaction by the international community are just too high. If Syria spirals further into civil war, not only will more civilians die, not only will more refugees stream across the borders, but instability will most certainly spill into neighboring states.
Kofi Annan has offered a plan to avoid that path, and we should spare no effort to support him. The United States will not waiver in our conviction that the future of Syria belongs to the Syrian people. They deserve our support and the support of every nation, so we will press ahead, building on what was accomplished today, pursuing every diplomatic avenue, and playing a leadership role in resolving this crisis that has gone on too long.
Thank you very much.
MS. NULAND: We only have time for two today. We’ll start with AP, Matt Lee, please.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary – I don’t know – I’ll just speak really loudly. Oh, it’s working? Okay. Listen, for all intents and purposes, it looks like the Russians have won here. There is no exclusionary language in the document that has been agreed to, whereas the draft contained language that would exclude people deemed to be bad for the transition. This speaks only of mutual consent, which would seem to give both sides – the Assad government and the opposition – veto power, which seems to be a recipe for continued stalemate.
Can you address why you think this calls for – in your own words, what you said, lays the way – paves the way for a post-Assad future, when in fact, it doesn’t require him to leave and leaves open – and it leaves the open – it leaves open the – leaves the question open entirely? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I disagree with your premise, obviously, because as I’ve made clear all week, we supported the Joint Special Envoy’s original text, but we agreed to some changes that we did not believe affected the substance, because frankly, we read the results to be the same. Assad will still have to go. He will never pass the mutual consent test, given the blood on his hands. I think you already heard Kofi Annan basically say the very same thing. The text also makes clear that the power to govern is vested fully in the transitional governing body, which strips him and his regime of all authority if he and they refuse to step down and leave.
Now, every day that has gone by without unity on the Security Council and among the states gathered here has been a day that has given comfort to Assad and his cronies and supporters. What we have done here is to strip away the fiction that he and those with blood on their hands can stay in power. The plan calls for the Assad regime to give way to a new transitional governing body that will have full governance powers.
Now, in deciding to accept the minor textual changes, we and our partners made absolutely clear to Russia and China that it is now incumbent upon them to show Assad the writing on the wall. I do not believe that anyone in the Assad regime ever thought we could come out with a unified statement today expressing not only the concerns but a path forward that would include Russia and China. And he needs to hear loudly and clearly that his days are numbered.
Russia and China have also pledged to start helping Kofi Annan find a way forward and work to use their leverage in order to establish the transitional governing body. We, of course, will do our part as well, because this transitional governing body will only succeed if it is composed of men and women who are beyond reproach.
The plan we have endorsed gives the Syrian people a real roadmap out of the violence and the increasing sectarian destruction of parts of their country. And I think it is absolutely important to note that more than 700 people lost their lives across Syria this week. That’s more than 100 a day, about the number we have in this room, and Damascus itself is now ringed with violence. And we believe that the plan will gain the support of many other countries and expect to see that occur at the Friends of the Syrian People meeting in Paris on Friday.
I guess I would repeat and associate myself with Kofi’s remarks. He has been working very hard to create the conditions for mediation. There was not unity in the international community as represented by the permanent members of the Security Council about what road he was supposed to be traveling as he tried to mediate and negotiate among and between the regime and the opposition. Now there is. I think that is an important step forward and a boost for his efforts to try to bring an end to the violence and bring about a transition that will protect and benefit the Syrian people.
MS. NULAND: Last one today, Noureddine Fridhi from Al Arabiya, please.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, Noureddine Fridhi from Al Arabiya News Channel. Is there a timetable for the implementation of this roadmap? And what will be the reaction of the Action Group, of this group, if this roadmap will have the same outcome as the six-point plan? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, our responsibility now is to everything we can, which we have pledged to do, to see that this roadmap is implemented. That means using all the leverage at our disposal. Some of us have leverage with certain parties and others with additional parties. We think it’s important that both the regime and the opposition be sent a very clear message that those who support them expect them to cooperate with Kofi Annan’s efforts. And we will do all that we can, and I’m confident that the other members of the Action Group will as well.
We also have work to continue doing in New York. We should endorse this plan in the Security Council. We should endorse it with real consequences, including Chapter 7 sanctions if it is not implemented. We all accepted the fact that Kofi Anna will be coming to report and to make clear what is happening on the ground, who is cooperating and who is not. And I think we have to give this plan a chance to actually work.
As I said in my statement, I am by no means naive. I am very clear-eyed about how difficult this is. I also know from following and working on conflicts around the world that it’s, unfortunately, a necessary process to keep raising the pressure in order to change the internal dynamics within groups that are committed to fighting until they decide, either personally or collectively, that there’s more to lose than gain by continuing the violence.
So what we are doing with this plan is creating some new factors and even realities that we then have to continue to push on to try to get the results that we are all seeking. Diplomacy is not easy. It doesn’t come with some automatic guarantee. But I think the Action Group has given the Special Envoy a vote of confidence and a roadmap that now we’re going to support him in doing his utmost to try to get implemented.
MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much.