Russia condemns Syrian "act of terror"
Published Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Russia on Wednesday demanded the arrest and strict punishment of those behind a Damascus "act of terror" that killed three top Syrian security officials, but Western countries offered more cautious criticism.
"We expect the organizers of the act of terror in Damascus to be identified and for them to face their deserved punishment," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
"We see the events as another attempt to further destabilize the situation in Syria."
The statement also called on both President Bashar al-Assad's government and the Syrian people to use the attack as a chance to reassess the situation and seek a peaceful compromise.
Syrian Defense Minister Daoud Abdullah Rajiha and Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shawkat were among those killed in the explosion, which took place at the National Security building in Damascus.
Iran also condemned the killings, with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi saying: "those who claim to be advocates of human rights play the greatest role in the start of wars."
"One should ask who is smuggling weapons into Syria to help the terrorists who have come from several countries kill people in there," state-owned Fars news agency quoted Qashqavi as saying.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the killings were a sign that Assad should step down immediately, but did not condemn them outright.
Warning that the situation was "rapidly spinning out of control," Panetta said the international community must "bring maximum pressure on Assad to do what's right, to step down and to allow for that peaceful transition."
British foreign secretary William Hague did criticize the bombers, but called for a new resolution against the Syrian government at the UN Security Council.
"This incident, which we condemn, confirms the urgent need for a Chapter VII resolution of the UN Security Council on Syria," he said.
"The situation in Syria is clearly deteriorating. All the members of the UN Security Council have a responsibility to put their weight behind the enforcement of joint special envoy Kofi Annan's plan to end the violence," he said.
Annan is calling on the Security Council to order "consequences" for any failure to carry out his six-point plan.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking alongside Russian president Vladimir Putin, said it was important that the international community did not delay in implementing the failing peace plan.
"We want the Syrian people to decide. In that situation the UN Security Council and the permanent members of the UN Security Council face important decisions," Erdogan said.
Fresh US sanctions
Also on Wednesday, the US Treasury Department announced new sanctions against 29 regime members, including the ministers of finance, economy, justice and information, as well as the governor of the central bank.
While the US had already frozen the assets of around 100 members of the regime and barred US firms from doing business with them, this move aims to significantly increase pressure on the regime's inner circle.
To date those not directly involved in the violence had largely been spared sanctions.
Many of the ministers were appointed on June 23 when Assad announced a new cabinet in the wake of parliamentary elections that were boycotted by the opposition.
Arab foreign ministers are to hold an emergency meeting on Sunday on the Syrian crisis, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said.
The meeting in Doha, following a scheduled session of the organization's Syria crisis task force, will "examine the consequences of the situation in Syria from all angles," Arabi said.