Are Russia and China Holding Up Progress to End Syrian Crisis?

With its commitment to build international support for the Syrian people, the United States of America today is urging other countries to reach out to Russia and China to demand that they get off the sidelines and begin to support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.

In her remarks at the Friends of the Syrian People Ministerial Meeting in Paris, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime.

“The only way that will change is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear that Russia and China will pay a price, because they are holding up progress, blockading it that is no longer tolerable. ” -Ms. Clinton

At its first meeting in Geneva, the UNbacked Action Group for Syria agreed on steps for a peaceful transition in the country. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Kofi Annan, Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria. UN Photo

She stresses that confronted with the regime’s non-compliance, it is difficult to imagine how the UN supervision mission can fulfill its responsibilities without a Chapter VII enforcement mechanism.

She notes General Mood and his team have performed an extraordinary task, but it is clear unarmed observers cannot monitor a ceasefire that does not exist.

“Next, what can you all do? You can tighten the financial vice, squeezing the regime.”-Ms. Clinton

She states that the second meeting of the sanctions working group in Washington last month called for all states to take additional steps to freeze the assets of regime officials, restrict transactions with the commercial and central banks, and embargo Syrian oil.

Since then, Switzerland, the European Union, Japan, and Australia have all announced additional measures, Ms. Clinton cited.

And the regime is becoming more isolated, which will help to hasten its end because its business support will finally turn on it, she stressed.

Ms. Clinton adds that Syria’s currency and foreign reserves have collapsed.

Sanctions on oil alone have deprived Assad of billions of dollars in lost revenues, and his ability to finance his war grows more difficult by the day, she noted.

She says what’s keeping Assad afloat is money from Iran and assistance from Russia and the failure of countries represented here to tighten and enforce sanctions.

“You cannot call for transition on the one hand and give the regime a free pass on sanctions on the other.” – Ms. Clinton

She stresses there’s a need to push for even stronger implementation at the working group meeting next to be held in Doha on sanctions.

So increasing pressure in all these ways is critical because no transition plan can progress so long as the regime’s brutal assaults continue, she explained.

“And we cannot ask the opposition to unilaterally give up their struggle for justice, dignity, and self-determination.” -Ms. Clinton

However, Ms. Clinton says the United States will continue providing non-lethal assistance to help those inside Syria who are carrying the fight to organize and better communicate.

“Now what else can we do? We can increase our humanitarian relief.” -Ms. Clinton

The United States is providing more than $57 million to support humanitarian organizations.

However, Ms. Clinton underlines that the Syrian Humanitarian Response Plan is only 20 percent funded so far.

“So we all need to do more, not only now but in the future to assist with the reconstruction.” -Ms. Clinton

She stresses that although the stakes for the Syrian people are literally life and death, they are also significant for the entire world.

She says if Syria spirals further into civil war, not only will more civilians die, more refugees will stream across the borders, but instability will spread far beyond Syria.

“This is a regime with a massive war machine.” -Ms. Clinton

In addition, Ms. Clinton says there are still those who are funding the regime and providing war materiel. And they have shown no hesitance in continuing to do that, she added.

“In fact, the Syrian Government itself has only escalated their violence over time.” -Ms. Clinton

She notes given their behavior and the chemical weapons they possess, it is imperative that Assad regime must understand their international responsibilities.

“So yes, what can we do? Our message must be: We are united in support of the Syrian people and in our absolute resolve to see the end of the Assad regime and a transition to a democratically-elected, representative government that gives the Syrian people a path forward.” -Ms. Clinton

She adds that there must be firm and united in support of Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s plan and act accordingly.

Friends of Syria has been a very useful device to build pressure against the Syrian regime and to build international support for the Syrian people.

Last week, reaffirming its strongest support to Kofi Annan’s political transition plan for Syria, the United States of America has underlined that the plan has delivered a strong language in Geneva despite the unhelpful response from China and Russia.

During an interview with Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the plan pledged to support a transitional governing body whose members can only be put on that body by mutual consent.

Ms. Clinton said if there are strong support to the plan, Mr. Annan can now go to the Assad regime and say they have to start talking about a transition and not be met with well.

However, they don’t have to do that, because Russia and China don’t agree with the United States, Ms. Clinton stressed.

“There was every reason to believe that we would never get the Russians and the Chinese on board or that we would ever satisfy the legitimate anxieties of the region about what is happening on their doorstep.” -Ms. Clinton

She underlined that the only way to do that within the existing framework was to empower Kofi Annan.

With regards to the United States publicly criticizing Russia for selling arms to the Syrian regime, Ms. Clinton stressed that the United States believes that ending the arming of the Assad government is the first order of business.

She noted that the Russians continue to claim that they are not providing anything that can be used to suppress internal dissent.

However, the US government begs to differ, she added.

In June this year, amid the turmoil engulfing Syria, speculations began to surface that ties are strained as US and Russia disagee over the path forward to end crisis in Syria.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States highly value a positive relationship with Russia.

However, she pointed out that both countries also disagree on other issues.

She stressed the US government has made it clear to the Russians that the outcome they are most concerned about, which would be a sectarian civil war, is made more likely, not less likely, by the international community’s failure to take a strong position vis-A -vis the Assad regime.

Reports say Russia is still refusing to condemn the war crimes committed by the Syrian regime.

In October last year, Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution that would have condemned the Assad regime. Russia is opposed to the establishment of safe no-fly zones which means that Russia is explicitly supporting the war-crimes committed by the regime.

Media reports say Sergei Lavrov the Russian Foreign Minister blamed the opposition.

Reports say that Russia is deploying naval military ships in the Mediterranean in an apparent gesture of support for the Assad’s regime.

Some analysts reportedly believe that Russia is worried about its heavy investments in Syria. Russia reportedly invested $30 billion in energy and tourism infrastructure and it has a naval base in the Syrian coastal city of Tartous. Reports say Russia fears that one day the international community might act against one of its client states in the old Soviet Union.

Earlier this July, recognizing Russia’s strategic importance to the United States, Deputy Secretary William J. Burns said U.S.-Russia relations are often an uneasy mix of competition and cooperation.

In his remarks on Russia’s WTO accession at DC, Mr. Burns stressed that the US has real and continuing differences with Russia.

Mr. Burns said he has spent a good deal of his diplomatic career helping Administrations of both parties navigate US complicated relationship with Russia.

He stressed that while it may be tempting to downplay Russia’s importance, the United States simply does not have that luxury.

He noted that as a permanent member of the UN Security Council; as one of the world’s largest nuclear powers; and as the world’s single largest producer of hydrocarbons, Russia’s strategic importance to the U.S. will matter for many years to come.

In May this year, the United States of America underlined that it’s in US interest to graduate Russia from Jackson-Vanik.

The United States’ trade relationship with Russia is tied to a provision of U.S. trade law (the Jackson-Vanik amendment) enacted in the 1970s to condition normal trade relations (NTR) status on the then-Soviet Union’s willingness to let Jews emigrate freely.

The United States asserts that Jackson-Vanik should be lifted simply unrelated to anything else because it’s in US interest, at the same time strongly supports the goals of the Cardin legislation.

President Obama has been looking of areas of common interest, try to reach practical, real substantive agreements while also being very clear that there would be things we would disagree on and we wouldn’t sweep them under the carpet as we pursued these things, Mr. Gordon added.

Both countries have accomplished numerous thing particularly the New START Treaty or cooperation on Afghanistan which has been very significant to their efforts; or the 123 Nuclear Agreement on civil nuclear cooperation; Russian support on North Korea; and, particularly Iran.

Both countries have been working very hard, in US own interest, to reach an agreement that would benefit the two countries.

The United States has been very clear about the importance of democracy, human rights, and civil society in US foreign policy.

Russia’s membership in the world’s largest rules-based trading system is said to provide tangible benefits to Russia as well as for U.S. businesses.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.