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This week marks the three-year anniversary of the Syrian revolution. For three years, Bashar al-Asad has refused to heed the call of the Syrian people to step aside. He has directed a war against his own people and created a humanitarian catastrophe in order to hold on to power and protect his narrow interests.
Following the announcement that the Syrian Embassy has suspended its provision of consular services, and in consideration of the atrocities the Asad regime has committed against the Syrian people, we have determined it is unacceptable for individuals appointed by that regime to conduct diplomatic or consular operations in the United States.
Consequently, the United States notified the Syrian government today that it must immediately suspend operations of its Embassy in Washington, DC and its honorary consulates in Troy, Michigan, and Houston, Texas. Syrian diplomats at the Embassy and Syrian honorary consulates are no longer permitted to perform diplomatic or consular functions and those who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents must depart the United States.
Despite the differences between our governments, the United States continues to maintain diplomatic relations with the state of Syria as an expression of our longstanding ties with the Syrian people, an interest that will endure long after Bashar al-Asad leaves power.
The United States will continue to assist those seeking change in Syria, to help end the slaughter, and to resolve the crisis through negotiations – for the benefit of the Syrian people.
United Nations human rights investigators have added to their list of suspected war criminals from both sides in the Syrian civil war after a new round of atrocities in recent weeks, its head said on Tuesday.
The U.N. inquiry has identified military units and security agencies as well as insurgent groups suspected of committing abuses, Paulo Pinheiro told the Human Rights Council.
Four confidential lists of suspects on both sides have been drawn up to date.
"This 'perpetrators list', as we call it, contains names of persons criminally responsible for hostage-taking, torture and executions," said Pinheiro, a Brazilian chairing the inquiry.
"It also contains names of the heads of intelligence branches and detention facilities where detainees are tortured, names of military commanders who target civilians, airports from which barrel bomb attacks are planned and executed, and armed groups involved in attacking and displacing civilians."
In its update report, the U.N. commission of inquiry on Syria said the period of January 20 to March 10 was marked by escalating hostilities between insurgent groups throughout northern and northeastern provinces as Islamist rebel strongholds came under attack.
Day after day, the Syrian civil war has ground down a cultural and political center of the Middle East, turning it into a stage for disaster and cruelty on a nearly incomprehensible scale. Families are brutalized by their government and by jihadists claiming to be their saviors as nearly half of Syrians — many of them children — have been driven from their homes.
At the start of the fourth year since Syrians rose up in a peaceful movement that turned to arms after violent repression, a snapshot of the country presents the harsh truth that Syria’s descent is only accelerating, with nothing to check it.
The government bombards neighborhoods with explosive barrels, missiles, heavy artillery and, the United States says, chemical weapons, then it sends in its allies in Hezbollah and other militias to wage street warfare. It jails and tortures peaceful activists, and uses starvation as a weapon, blockading opposition areas where trapped children shrivel and die.
The opposition is now functionally dominated by foreign-led jihadists who commit their own abuses in the name of their extremist ideology, just last week shooting a 7-year-old boy for what they claimed was apostasy. And some of those fighters, too, have targeted civilians and used siege tactics.
Daniel Rubinstein will be an outstanding successor to Ambassador Robert Ford as the U.S. Special Envoy for Syria.
This position is as important as it is challenging. Like Robert, Daniel is a Senior Foreign Service officer who speaks fluent Arabic and is widely respected in the region. It's more than fair to say that he is among our government’s foremost experts on the Middle East and has served with distinction in some of our most challenging and high profile regional Missions, including Damascus. Wherever he's served -- from Jerusalem to Amman, from Baghdad to Tel Aviv, from Tunis, to the Sinai, and most recently back in Washington in the INR Bureau where I was reacquainted with him -- Daniel has excelled.
There's no denying the tough challenge that Syria represents for any diplomat. We're entering the fourth year of a bloody and brutal conflict that's wrecked havoc on the country, its people, and the region. Special Envoy Rubinstein’s leadership and counsel will be vital as we redouble our efforts to support the moderate opposition, shore up our partners, counter the rise of extremism that threatens us all, and address the devastating humanitarian crisis and its impact on the neighboring states. Special Envoy Rubinstein will travel to the region later this month to begin consultations with Syrians and others seeking an end to the slaughter and a different kind of future.
Three years after the start of Syria’s conflict, we estimate that more than 9 million people need aid and protection inside Syria and another 2.5 million have fled the country. The humanitarian consequences of the fighting are staggering and despite our best efforts, aid workers are struggling to reach everyone who needs help. An estimated 3.5 million people are living in 'hard-to-reach' areas and have received very little aid. Some 220,000 have been besieged for months, 175,000 in areas controlled by the government and 45,000 in areas controlled by opposition groups. We have not been allowed to help them and they have not been allowed out of their communities. In some areas there are reports that people have run of food.People in entire neighbourhoods and towns are being intimidated into submission. Children, women and men are being used as pawns by parties to the conflict in their battle for territorial advantage. After three years, the figures, although horrific, no longer have the impact they should. Well over 100,000 people have been killed. An entire generation of children has been traumatized and brutalized. Hospitals and school playgrounds have been attacked; residential neighbourhoods are flattened by barrel bombs. Our collective voice should be raised in protest at the flagrant violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.The international community needs to show the courage and determination to do all that is necessary to reach a political solution. Without that, we will see years more of destruction and continued brutality meted out to the people of Syria.