We condemn the Syrian military’s escalation of violence in Homs, Daraa and other cities prior to the deployment of the Arab League monitors. We have seen horrific pictures of indiscriminate fire, including by heavy tank guns, and heard reports of dozens of deaths, thousands of arrests, as well as beatings of peaceful protestors.
These repressive actions are not consistent with the terms of the Arab League initiative that the Syrian regime agreed to on November 2 or the protocol on observers that the regime agreed to on December 19. These agreements, designed to protect civilians, called for removal of military forces from the cities; allowing peaceful demonstrations; stopping violence by security forces, including the government’s shabiha militia; releasing all political prisoners; and allowing Arab League monitors and members of the international media to report freely on events throughout the country.
In keeping with the Arab League agreement, we expect that Arab League monitors will be able to deploy and move freely within Homs and other Syrian cities as protestors peacefully gather in reaction to the regime’s excessive violence. The monitors should have unfettered access to protestors and to areas most severely affected by the regime’s crackdown. They bear a heavy responsibility in trying to protect Syrian civilians from the depredations of a murderous regime.
The next steps that the United States and the international community take will consider the extent of genuine cooperation from Syrian authorities with the Arab League monitoring mission, and the government’s degree of compliance with the other elements of the Arab League initiative. If the Syrian regime continues to resist and disregard Arab League efforts, the international community will consider other means to protect Syrian civilians.