WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner urged governments focused on the crisis in Syria to apply “maximum financial pressure” on the regime in Damascus, and he added that the United Nations could ultimately approve financial sanctions against it.
Geithner, appearing at a meeting here of the so-called Friends of Syria sanctions committee, said economic sanctions won't end the violence in Syria, but they “can help hasten the day” the government headed by President Bashar Assad gives up power.
The Friends of Syria group was organized to deal with Syria’s military crackdown on civilian protesters and armed opponents. At least 10,000 people have been killed since the uprising erupted during the "Arab Spring" last year.
President Obama has resisted calls to intervene directly in Syria, but Geithner said unless Assad’s government cooperates with U.N. efforts to resolve the crisis, the U.S. and others will “soon join in taking appropriate actions against the Syrian regime, including, if necessary, Chapter 7 action in the U.N. Security Council.”
Russia and China, which could veto a resolution in the Security Council, continue to oppose providing a U.N. blessing for outside intervention in Syria.
Geithner’s comments came as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton headed to a meeting with other senior officials in Istanbul, Turkey, to discuss the crisis.
Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said the administration and its allies are weighing “ways to further isolate and pressure Assad and get him to cease the brutal campaign against the Syrian people, and to allow for the political transition that’s already underway to be completed.”
In a briefing for reporters, a senior Treasury Department official said the Friends of Syria group was trying to persuade other countries to put in place financial strictures already adopted by the U.S., along with European and Middle Eastern countries.
The U.S. and its allies have cut off purchases of Syrian oil, sought to tighten an arms embargo and tried to block government banks and institutions, as well as specific officials, from the world financial system, among other steps.
“The effort is to get more to do that,” said the official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject.
In a statement, the group said “there was substantial agreement that further measures will be necessary in light of the continued violence by the Assad regime and the continued denial of the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.”
-- Paul Richter
Photo: A television camera viewfinder focuses on U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner as he speaks to the Friends of Syria group on Wednesday. Credit: Jim Lo Scalzo / European Pressphoto Agency