'Friends of Syria' Gather To Put Pressure On Assad
Representatives from over 60 countries and international organizations gathered in the Tunisian capital Friday with the intent of pressuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to put an end to what the United Nations has deemed as humanity crimes.
In what is being called the "Friends of Syria" meeting, diplomats and officials have stepped in after the Syrian government has prevented humanitarian aid from reaching its residents during its "crackdown" of the uprising against the Syrian government that began nearly one year ago.
According to The New York Times:
- "The conference was also expected to call for “a peaceful nonmilitary solution,” participants said, and to consider the creation of a joint Arab League-United Nations peacekeeping force if a settlement permitted it.
- “In a transitioning Syria, one where violence stops, we anticipate that the United Nations would go in,” a Western official said, speaking in return for anonymity because the plan had not been finalized."
If Assad does not agree to the "Friends of Syria" proposal-- which includes an immediate cease-fire and clearance for the UN and humanitarian agencies to evaluate the needs of Homs and other areas under attack-- the tension will only heighten, reported TIME:
- " ... I think that the strategy followed by the Syrians and their allies is one that can't stand the test of legitimacy ... for any length of time," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters in London after meeting about a dozen of her foreign minister colleagues to prepare for the Tunis event.
- "There will be increasingly capable opposition forces," she said. "They will from somewhere, somehow find the means to defend themselves as well as begin offensive measures."
The Guardian has been following the meeting live. Recent developments include Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal leaving the meeting, "saying in a speech that focusing on humanitarian aid to Syria was 'not enough.'" Qatari premier Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani has also requested that an Arab force should "provide security for the Syrian people."
Earlier this week, the Red Cross had pleaded for a cease-fire so it could bring aid to victims in the Syrian city of Homs, where residential neighborhoods have endured nearly three consecutive weeks of shelling attacks. The 11 months of bloodshed between the Syrian government and rebel fighters has resulted in more than 5,400 deaths, said TIME.