(photo credit: REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri)
WASHINGTON – The United States criticized Syria harshly Friday for its actions
against protesters, with the White House denouncing the government’s response to
demonstrations that left several civilians dead.
“We condemn and deplore
the use of violence against citizens demonstrating in Syria, and applaud the
courage and dignity of the Syrian people,” White House Press Secretary Jay
Carney said in a statement issued Friday afternoon.
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“We urge all parties
to maintain calm and avoid violence, and call on the Syrian government to
respect human rights and to allow for peaceful demonstrations”
administration called on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad “to be responsive to
the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people” and deliver on his promises to
“advance a meaningful reform agenda.” Carney additionally stressed that
“Violence is not the answer to the grievances of the Syrian people. What is
needed now is a credible path to a future of greater freedom, democracy,
opportunity, and justice.”
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said US
Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford had been in close touch with Syrian officials to
convey America’s concerns. The US wants to see the 42-year-old emergency law
lifted, among other measures, he said.
Carney’s words were echoed by
Democratic Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a
close ally of Obama’s.
“Violence against peaceful protesters is
unacceptable – whether in Syria, Bahrain, Yemen or anyplace else – and betrays
the values that we, as Americans, respect and that people everywhere should
share,” Kerry said ahead of Friday’s protests. “I am particularly concerned
about the violence against protesters in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad did
not use his speech yesterday to promise concrete reforms, including lifting the
Kerry stressed the need for Assad to “refrain from using
violence against [his] own people.”
Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman went
further Friday, calling for Assad’s ouster.
“Syria deserves to be free,
and Assad needs to go,” he said in a statement. “The people of Syria, no less
than the people of Egypt, or Libya, or any other place, deserve to have their
universal human rights respected.”
His rhetoric went farther than the
Obama administration has, and he appeared to directly rebuke Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton for calling Assad a “reformer” in an interview last
“Assad is not a reformer.
Anyone who thinks so is at best
fooling themselves, and at worst, serving as a useful idiot to a murderous
dictator and a proud sponsor of terrorism,” Ackerman said.
regime’s most recent and highly visible brutality is not an aberration or a
temporary sign of stress; it is rather the unplanned exposure of its true