Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday, June 30, downplayed the changes made to the text of a joint statement on what should be done in Syria that was issued by major powers meeting in Geneva.
Russia continued to oppose language in the statement calling for a political transition under which Bashar al-Assad would be required to leave power. But Clinton insisted the edits agreed on at the meeting convened by UN Syria envoy Kofi Annan Saturday did not alter that key demand.
“Assad will still have to go,” Clinton told reporters in Geneva Saturday. "He will never pass the mutual-consent test, given the blood on his hands.”
The plan agreed at the Action Group on Syria meeting calls “for the Assad regime to give way to a new transitional governing body that will have full governance powers,” Clinton said.
Indeed, Clinton continued, “we and our partners made absolutely clear to Russia and China that it is now incumbent upon them to show Assad the writing on the wall.”
“The unity government should be formed on the basis of ‘mutual consent,’” Annan stressed Saturday, as reported by Russia Today, which noted that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “also pointed out the new document does not command a political process for Syria.”
A draft Action Group communiqué dated June 28 and obtained by Al-Monitor called for “... an immediate cessation of violence in all its forms; … guidelines and principles for a political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people; and … actions … [to] support [Annan's] … efforts to facilitate a Syrian- led political process.”
The national unity government “could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups … but would exclude from government those whose continued presence and participation would undermine ... the transition and jeopardize stability and reconciliation” — namely, Assad, the earlier version of the document said.
Laura Rozen writes the Back Channel news-blog for Al-Monitor. She previously served as senior foreign policy reporter for Politico and Yahoo News, and wrote the “Cable” blog for Foreign Policy magazine. She is based in Washington, D.C. You can follow her on Twitter at @lrozen