'Friends of Syria' call for immediate end to all violence by Bashar al-Assad

Published: February 25, 2012

Tunisia's Foreign Affairs Minister Rafik Abdessalem (C) addresses participants on February 24, 2012 during the "Friends of Syria" conference at which representatives from over 60 countries will discuss the crisis in Syria, with a focus on aid and a political resolution of the violent conflict which has killed over 7000 people since the beginning of pro-democracy demonstrations a year ago. Western and Arab nations are to challenge Syria to allow in desperately needed humanitarian aid at a meeting today aimed at tackling President Bashar al-Assad's increasingly bloody crackdown. PHOTO: AFP

Tunisia's Foreign Affairs Minister Rafik Abdessalem (C) addresses participants on February 24, 2012 during the "Friends of Syria" conference at which representatives from over 60 countries will discuss the crisis in Syria, with a focus on aid and a political resolution of the violent conflict which has killed over 7000 people since the beginning of pro-democracy demonstrations a year ago. Western and Arab nations are to challenge Syria to allow in desperately needed humanitarian aid at a meeting today aimed at tackling President Bashar al-Assad's increasingly bloody crackdown. PHOTO: AFP United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) and British Foreign Secretary William Hague (C) speak with United Arab Emirates' Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan at the first "Friends of Syria" conference in Tunis on February 24, 2012. Western and Arab nations are to challenge Syria to allow in desperately needed humanitarian aid at a meeting today aimed at tackling President Bashar al-Assad's increasingly bloody crackdown. PHOTO: AFP

TUNIS: Arab and Western nations in Tunisia for the first “Friends of Syria” meeting on Friday called for an immediate end to violence in the country and for new sanctions on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

In a final declaration, the group called for the regime to immediately end all violence to allow for humanitarian aid to be brought in.

“The Friends’ Group called on the Syrian government immediately to cease all violence and to allow free and unimpeded access by the UN and humanitarian agencies,” it said.

“It demanded that the Syrian regime immediately permit humanitarian agencies to deliver vital relief goods and services to civilians affected by the violence,” it said.

It also vowed to “press the Syrian regime to stop all acts of violence” by enforcing current sanctions and introducing new ones, including with travel bans, asset freezes, ceasing oil purchases, reducing diplomatic ties and preventing the shipment of arms.

“Participants committed to take steps to apply and enforce restrictions and sanctions on the regime and its supporters as a clear message to the Syrian regime that it cannot attack civilians with impunity,” it said.

It also recognised the main opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), as “a legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change” but fell short of giving it exclusive recognition.

The communique though, did not mention any foreign military intervention along the lines of the NATO bombing campaign that helped force out Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Instead, it called for further diplomatic pressure on Assad to step down and endorsed an Arab League plan that sees him handing power to a deputy as a prelude to elections.

The declaration did not fully endorse some Arab calls for peacekeepers to be deployed to Syria, with the declaration saying only that it “noted the Arab League’s request to the United Nations Security Council to issue a resolution to form a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping force”.

But the wording of the Tunis draft reflected a harsh reality: there is little the world can do to stop the violence as long as Russia and China, both of which declined invitations to the Tunis meeting, reject Security Council resolutions.

The head of the main opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) expressed disappointment in the Tunis meeting. “This conference does not meet the aspirations of the Syrian people,” SNC chief Burhan Ghalioun told Reuters.

But in a sign the international community is seeking ways around the Security Council deadlock, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he would dispatch former UN chief Kofi Annan to Syria as a joint UN-Arab League envoy.

West decries Assad regime

“If the Assad regime refuses to allow this life-saving aid to reach civilians, it will have even more blood on its hands,” Clinton said in prepared remarks for the meeting. “So too will those nations that continue to protect and arm the regime”.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said London would now treat the SNC as “a legitimate representative of the Syrian people”. But the draft offered a weaker endorsement, proposing only that the SNC be recognised as “a legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change”.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Feb 25, 2012 - 2:10AM

    America should stop funding terrorists and insurgents in Syria who are trying to destabilize Syria just like US did it in Libya

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  • Feb 25, 2012 - 8:50AM

    ET: America is a veritable C-H-E-A-T. In the movie “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” Karen Allen remarks to Harrison Ford about “leaving a trail of destruction wherever he goes.” How UNAVOIDABLY CORRECT.

    When a country or people are enamoring themselves by glitz and glamour, they will reach a stage when they get almost irretrievably lost, like Pakistan. (Confusion or avoiding of responsibility).

    If the superpowers are battling for regional supremacy let them, but Bashar al Assad must resign instead of killing thousands of Syria’s citizens. Let somebody else takeover and face the music. When America faces uprisings and the state’s civic armed forces fire on the innocent citizens that will be the day when USA will crumble. The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests are a starting point.

    Salams to Pakistan

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  • Shakky
    Feb 25, 2012 - 12:08PM

    Bashar Assad is murdering thousands of innocent Syrians – these are not insurgents, they are civilians who want the Assad regime to be dismantled and replaced with democracy. Lets hope that the Assad regime falls quickly, before more innocents are needlessly killed.

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  • j. von hettlingen
    Feb 26, 2012 - 2:20AM

    The situation in Syria isn’t hopeless for the oppostion. No doubt Assad’s forces are much better armed. They have tanks and heavy weaponry while the defected FSA fight with their Kalashnikovs. It shouldn’t be THE problem. History had seen the Vietcong and the Taliban beat their – militarily more superior – enemies. In order to win, the opposition should be united and better organised. It’s all about tactics and strategy. Sofar it doesn’t have a centralised command and each neighbourhood has different groups, without coordination. The Syrian National Council is made of of expatriates and members of different sects and ethnicities. Sofar they haven’t been able to reach consensus.

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