US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday warned that time was running out for the Syrian regime and it needed to start a political transition to save the country from a “catastrophic assault.”
“It should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime their days are numbered,” Clinton told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo.
However, she acknowledged that efforts, led by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, to get the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to halt its brutal crackdown on the opposition were proving difficult.
Annan himself in an interview with the French daily Le Monde said his six-point plan to end hostilities in Syria had not been successful so far, and there was no guarantee that it would bear fruit.
Activists say more than 17,000 people have now died since the uprising began in March last year.
“What Kofi Annan said should be a wake-up call to everyone because he acknowledged that there has not been movement by the Syrian regime in accordance with the six-point plan,” Clinton said.
“The sooner there can be an end to the violence and a begetting of a political transition process, not only will fewer people die, but there’s a chance to save the Syrian state from a catastrophic assault that would be dangerous not only to the country, but the region,” she said.
Clinton was speaking after attending talks in Paris on Friday in which countries pledged to increase pressure on al-Assad to step down by seeking a tough UN resolution backed by a threat of sanctions.
She had also met with members of the Syrian opposition leading efforts to topple al-Assad, whose family has ruled the Arab nation for four decades.
“There’s no doubt that the opposition is getting more effective in their defense of themselves and is going on the offence against the Syrian military and the Syrian government’s militias,” Clinton told reporters yesterday.
She also pointed to a number of high-level defections, warning the al-Assad regime that “the sand is running out of the hour glass.”
“We want to make clear to the Syrian regime that they need to be willing to end the violence and start the serious business of a political transition,” Clinton added.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who also attended the donors’ conference in Tokyo, renewed his call on the UN Security Council for collective action to pressure Syria to stop the violence.
“It is crucial for the Security Council ... to pressure the parties to prevent any further escalation of the conflict,” Ban told a separate news briefing yesterday.
“President Assad must understand that things cannot continue as they are. Fundamental change is needed,” he said.
“Syrian people have suffered too long and too much. I sincerely hope that the member states of the UN Security Council will look into this issue more seriously ... sharing the common responsibility by taking collective action as soon as possible,” he said.