WASHINGTON — Diplomatic efforts to halt Syria's bloodshed have "failed" and the world must send military aid to rebels to stop further slaughter, US Senator John McCain said Tuesday at a refugee camp in Turkey.
"Make no mistake: the situation in Syria is an armed conflict. This is a war," the Republican McCain said at a Syrian refugee camp in Hatay, Turkey near the Syrian border, referring to the year-long conflict between the forces of strongman President Bashar al-Assad and opponents to the regime.
"Diplomacy with Assad has failed, and it will continue to fail so long as Assad thinks he can defeat the opposition in Syria militarily," McCain said in a joint statement with independent Senator Joe Lieberman, who has long backed McCain's stance on Syria.
"And right now, using tanks and artillery and even attack helicopters, Assad has the upper hand on the battlefield."
The two lawmakers visited the Syrian refugee camp Tuesday, the day regime forces were supposed to halt all violence as part of a ceasefire deal brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
The senators said their visit to Hatay was in no way related to that of Annan, who was at the camp on the same day.
"We respect Mr. Annan's desire to find an end to the killing in Syria. Unfortunately, Bashar al-Assad does not share this goal," McCain and Lieberman said.
"The slaughter in Syria has now claimed more than 10,000 lives. And it is not a fair fight," they said, adding "Assad is being armed and resupplied by Russia and Iran" and that Iranian operatives may be on the ground helping Assad's forces.
"Under these conditions, no one should think that Assad will stop killing and leave power anytime soon. Indeed, the unanimous opinion of everyone we have spoken with on our visit is that there is no end in sight to the horrific violence in Syria."
McCain has made several calls to help arm the rebels. President Barack Obama's administration has refused, instead agreeing with Turkey last month on the need to send "non-lethal" aid.
"It was clear during this visit that the Syrian people and our friends in this region are looking to the United States for leadership on Syria, and unfortunately, they are not finding it," McCain said.
Fifty-two people including 28 civilians were killed across Syrian on Tuesday, monitors said.
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