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United Nations
New York City

Thank you very much, Mr. President, and let me begin by thanking Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim and Secretary General el Araby for their thorough briefing.

The Arab League has demonstrated important leadership in this crisis. And for many months, the people of the region and the world have watched in horror as the Assad regime executed a campaign of violence against its own citizens. Civilians gunned down in the streets, women and children tortured and killed. No one is safe, not even officials of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. According to UN estimates, more than 5,400 civilians have already died, and that number is rising fast.

The regime also continues to arbitrarily detain Syrian citizens, such as the activists Yahia al-Shurbaji and Anas al-Shaghri, simply for demanding dignity and universal rights. To date, the evidence is clear that Assad's forces are initiating nearly all of the attacks that kill civilians, but as more citizens take up arms to resist the regime's brutality, violence is increasingly likely to spiral out of control. Already, the challenges ahead for the Syrian people are daunting - a crumbling economy, rising sectarian tensions, a cauldron of instability in the heart of the Middle East.

Now, fears about what follows Assad, especially among Syria's minority communities, are understandable. Indeed, it appears as though Assad and his cronies are working hard to pit Syria's ethnic and religious groups against each other, risking greater sectarian violence and even descent into civil war.

So in response to this violent crackdown on peaceful dissent and protest, the Arab League launched an unprecedented diplomatic intervention, sending monitors into Syria's beleaguered cities and towns and offering President Assad many chances to change course. These observers were greeted by thousands of protestors eager to share their aspirations for their universal rights and also the stories of what had befallen them and their families. But as the Arab League report makes clear if you read the entire report, the regime did not respect its pledges or the presence of the monitors, and instead responded with excessive and escalating violence.

Now, in the past few days, the regime's security forces have intensified their assault, shelling civilian areas in Homs and other cities. And this weekend, the Arab League suspended its monitoring mission, pointing to the regime's intransigence and the mounting civilian casualties.

So why is the Arab League here before this Security Council? Because they are seeking the support of the international community for a negotiated, peaceful political solution to this crisis and a responsible, democratic transition in Syria. And we all have a choice: Stand with the people of Syria and the region or become complicit in the continuing violence there.

The United States urges the Security Council to back the Arab League's demand that the Syrian Government immediately stop all attacks against civilians and guarantee the freedom of peaceful demonstrations. In accordance with the Arab League's plan, Syria must also release all arbitrarily detained citizens, return its military and security forces to their barracks, allow full and unhindered access for monitors, humanitarian workers, and journalists.

And we urge the Security Council to back the Arab League's call for an inclusive, Syrian-led political process to effectively address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syria's people, conducted in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation, and extremism.

Now, I know that some members here may be concerned that the Security Council could be headed toward another Libya. That is a false analogy. Syria is a unique situation that requires its own approach, tailored to the specific circumstances occurring there. And that is exactly what the Arab League has proposed - a path for a political transition that would preserve Syria's unity and institutions.