As reports of massive shelling in the Syrian town of Daraa swept the wires this weekend, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continued to discuss with key foreign allies how to convince President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
The president spoke with his French counterpart Francois Hollande Friday, thanking him for agreeing to host the next Friends of Syria meeting on July 6 and "noting the need to quickly bring about a political transition in Syria."
Meanwhile, Clinton met with UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan at the State Department on Friday to discuss how to "engender a greater response by the Government of Syria to the six-point plan that he has put forth."
Annan acknowledged after continued fighting in Syria, many observers believe his peace plan is dead. "This is now being discussed, and we are also exploring how we can work with other governments in the region and around the world to achieve our goals," he said at the press availability with Clinton.
On the ground in Syria, there have been multiple reports of heavy shelling in the southern city of Daraa on Saturday, with 17 confirmed deaths so far. Likewise, UN monitors in the country revealed the first independently-verified video of the violence today. The video shows the city of Mazraat al-Qubair, the site of the June 6 massacre of 78 people, including women and children.
The same day as the Mazraat al-Qubair massacre, U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner announced the U.S. would support the use of force against Syria as authorized under Chapter 7 of the United Nations charter. This announcement went further than previous U.S. government statements which simply said America was becoming "impatient" with the continuing violence there.
The EU on Friday also authorized a further 23 million euro to go to the humanitarian effort in Syria and in areas affected by the influx of refugees in neighboring Lebanon and Jordan.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said "while the international community must continue to support (UN-Arab League Special Envoy) Kofi Annan's plan and use all its influence to stop the violence and begin a transition, the European Union remains strongly committed to supporting the Syrian people in this time of suffering. We need to deliver all the support we can."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he would soon be presenting a series of new options to the UN Security Council for Syria. "We must be prepared for any eventuality; we must be ready to respond to many possible scenarios," Ban said at a press availability with Annan.
The United Nations estimated in April around 9,000 people were dead from the violence in Syria while activists put the number more around 13,000.
by RTT Staff Writer
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