WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama on Tuesday decried continued and "unacceptable" levels of violence in Syria and pledged to redouble international efforts to force President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
Obama also thanked King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Oval Office for being the first Arab leader to call for Assad to go, after talks that also focused on Jordanian efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The president said the two leaders discussed regional issues including Iran and Iraq and praised the king for being "ahead of the curve" in his efforts to promote political reform inside Jordan.
But he said the violence in Syria and the crackdown on demonstrators by Assad's armed forces had been "uppermost" in their minds.
"We continue to see unacceptable levels of violence inside that country," Obama said.
"We will continue to consult very closely with Jordan to create the kind of international pressure and environment that encourage the current Syrian regime to step aside so that a more democratic process and transition can take place inside of Syria."
Obama also praised King Abdullah for being willing to "stand up" by calling on Assad to go, and for joining Arab League efforts to mitigate the crisis.
The president also praised Jordan's leadership in seeking to revive direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
"We talked about the importance of continuing to consult closely together to encourage the Palestinians and the Israelis to come back to the table and negotiate in a serious fashion," Obama said.