Xinhua News Agency

Western countries’ pressure on al-Assad to step down and economic sanctions against his government on one hand and more money and weaponry aid for the opposition, on the other, would only push Syria into the abyss of civil war

BEIJING: The third “Friends of Syria” meeting called for tougher sanctions against the Syrian government to force change in the conflict-torn country and pledged more assistance to the opposition.

Compared to the previous two meetings, the gathering in Paris on Friday was nothing new. That’s because the Western-dominated meetings have but one theme — forcing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from office, analysts say.

The lopsided support for the Syrian opposition and insistence on pressuring Damascus have raised questions as to whether the “Friends of Syria” are indeed friends of the Syrian opposition?


The conference of the so-called “Friends of Syria” group brought together more than 100 mainly Western and Arab countries and international organizations as well as the fractious Syrian opposition.

The gathering, which was initiated by France earlier this year, follows a meeting in Tunis and another in Istanbul, both of which called for tougher action against al-Assad’s government.

Speaking at the Paris meeting, French President Francois Hollande urged al-Assad to take responsibilities for the 16-month crisis and to hand over power in order to pave the way for political transition.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was more blunt. She called for “real and immediate consequences for non-compliance, including sanctions,” against the al-Assad government.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that the United Nations should use all necessary means to implement the six-point peace plan drawn up by Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria.

Fabius also said the UN Security Council should adopt resolutions under the UN Charter’s Chapter 7, which allows the council to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention.


Western countries, however, remain at odds over whether to use force in Syria.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle backed a call for non-military action for the time being, saying force should only be discussed “when the implementation of the sanctions has not really made the progress they should have.”

Observers say that at present the Western countries are divided on ways to deal with the Syrian conflict, with those supporting political solutions taking the upper hand.

The Paris meeting also decided to “greatly increase assistance to the opposition” by giving them tools to communicate more securely with each other and the outside world.

By agreeing on such substantial aid to the opposition, the so-called “Friends of Syria” are indeed “Friends of the Syrian Opposition,” the analysts said.

Western media also built momentum for the Paris meeting with reports that said that a high-ranking Syrian military commander had defected in what would be a major blow to the al-Assad government.


The Paris meeting still focused on forcing al-Assad to quit and fell short of solutions on how Syria should end the crisis after al-Assad’s departure, Syrian political analysts said.

At the same time, Western assistance to Syrian opposition groups would certainly boost their fighting morale and cause them to continue to refuse to open political dialogue with the government. That in turn would do little for obtaining a political solution to the crisis except to fan the flames, the analysts said.

Annan’s peace plan, which calls for an end to the fighting and a dialogue between Damascus and the opposition aimed at a “political transition” for the country, is the only solution to the crisis accepted by the international community, the analysts said.

Favoring any party in the conflict would only aggravate the crisis by setting up barriers to political solutions, they said.

Damascus had offered political reforms to include opposition figures in the political process. The newly-sworn government also sent a signal of setting up political dialogue to seek solutions to the crisis that would be acceptable to all parties.

If the Syrian opposition groups could shelve their disputes and actively participate in the political dialogue, the crisis would take a solid step towards a political solution, observers based in the Middle East said.

Western countries’ pressure on al-Assad to step down and economic sanctions against his government on one hand and more money and weaponry aid for the opposition, on the other, would only push Syria into the abyss of civil war, they said.

Published on 7 Jul 2012 by PressTVGlobalNews

Western leaders and their Arab allies gathered in Paris to call for a UN solution to the Syrian unrest.