As President Obama said this morning, no outside power can or should impose on this transition. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders in a democratic system based on the rule of law and dedicated to protecting the rights of all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sect, or gender.
All along, as we have worked to expand the circle of global condemnation, we have backed up our words with actions. As I’ve repeatedly said, it does take both words and actions to produce results. Since the unrest began, we have imposed strong financial sanctions on Assad and dozens of his cronies. We have sanctioned the Commercial Bank of Syria for supporting the regime’s illicit nuclear proliferation activities. And we have led multilateral efforts to isolate the regime, from keeping them off the Human Rights Council, to achieving a strong presidential statement of condemnation at the UN Security Council.
The steps that President Obama announced this morning will further tighten the circle of isolation around the regime. His executive order immediately freezes all assets of the Government of Syria that are subject to American jurisdiction and prohibits American citizens from engaging in any transactions with the Government of Syria or investing in that country. These actions strike at the heart of the regime by banning American imports of Syrian petroleum and petroleum products and prohibiting Americans from dealing in these products.
And as we increase pressure on the Assad regime to disrupt its ability to finance its campaign of violence, we will take steps to mitigate any unintended effects of the sanctions on the Syrian people. We will also continue to work with the international community, because if the Syrian people are to achieve their goals, other nations will have to provide support and take actions as well.
In just the past two weeks, many of Syria’s own neighbors and partners in the region have joined the chorus of condemnation. We expect that they and other members of the international community will amplify the steps we are taking both through their words and their actions.
We are heartened that, later today, the UN Security Council will meet again to discuss this ongoing threat to international peace and stability. We are also working to schedule a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council that will examine the regime’s widespread abuses. Earlier this week, I explained how the United States has been engaged in a relentless and systematic effort with the international community, pursuing a set of actions and statements that make crystal clear where we all stand, and generating broader and deeper pressure on the Assad regime.
The people of Syria deserve a government that respects their dignity, protects their rights, and lives up to their aspirations. Assad is standing in their way. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for him to step aside and leave this transition to the Syrians themselves, and that is what we will continue to work to achieve.
Thank you all very much.