Syria Protests: U.S. Senators Ask Administration to Increase Aid to Opposition

  @DanRivoli on February 10 2012 3:45 PM
Syrians
A group of senators are pushing a resolution to increase U.S. involvement in international efforts to curb violence against pro-democracy protesters in Syria. Reuters

A group of senators Friday called for the Obama administration to aid Syrian opposition leaders as the government wages a violent and fatal crack down on protests.

The bipartisan group introduced a resolution urging the administration step up its efforts to stop the bloodshed by providing substantial material and technical support, upon request, to Syrian organizations part of the opposition.

Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Marco Rubio of Florida are spearheading the resolution, first reported by Foreign Policy's The Cable. Other senators who signed on include Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat; Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Republican; Barbara Boxer of California; Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

The resolution praises President Barack Obama for authorizing sanctions on Syria's government and calling for President Bashar Al-Assad to end the violence and step down from power. The senators also plan to condemn Russia and China for vetoing a United Nations resolution imposing sanctions against Syria and calling for Assad to step down.

The senators want the administration to set up a Friends of the Syrian People group for countries that want regime change in Syria, like Turkey, the European Union and the League of Arab States. The league attempted to implement a peace plan, but independent monitors were withdrawn due to violence.

The resolution says robust humanitarian assistance is needed and that the U.S. should work with the international community to see whether a safe haven along Syria's border is a viable option. The U.N. estimated more than 5,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad began, but said recently that it stopped tallying the death toll.

[The Senate] urges the international community to mobilize in support of a post-Assad democratic and inclusive government of Syria that holds accountable those responsible for crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights, the resolution says.

Casey, a Democrat and chair of a Senate committee on south and central Asia, said the violence in Syrian threatens to destabilize the entire region.

Rubio, a Republican and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Syrian people can no longer wait for Assad to heed street protesters and leave on his own or U.N. action.

The international community can and should do more to support the people of Syria during this terrible hour in their history,  Rubio said in a statement.

Turkey, meanwhile, is also calling for international help and humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is in Washington to meet Obama administration officials and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to The Washington Post.

[Assad is] now fighting against his own people, Davutoglu said. This cannot be tolerated. We cannot wait and see like Sarajevo.

Now we need to revitalize a new international initiative, Davutoglu said, according to CNN. We hope that with such a strong message those who are supporting Bashar al-Assad or [his] regime at this moment, they will have to make a reassessment.

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