Hillary Clinton, at 'Friends' meeting, has encouraging words for Syria rebels
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stopped short of giving an official US nod to the Syrian opposition to the Assad regime. But, as 'Friends of Syria' meeting ends, that move is likely to come soon.
The United States stopped short of recognizing the Syrian opposition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people at Friday's international gathering on Syria – but that move is likely to come soon.Skip to next paragraph
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When it does, it will reflect a shift of the international community to the side of the still-developing Syrian National Council and Syrian Free Arm and, probably, fatal isolation of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
It will also bear the imprint of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who, more hawkish and interventionist than the president she serves, will have carried the day as she did less than a year ago in the case of Libya.
At Friday’s "Friends of Syria" meeting in Tunisia, more than 60 countries and international humanitarian organizations developed plans for getting humanitarian aid to Syria’s besieged population. The gathering also sought to ramp up pressure on Mr. Assad to allow safe access to humanitarian organizations to get aid into the country.
In an initial sign that Assad might be listening, the Syrian Red Crescent reported Friday that it was being allowed to evacuate wounded women and children from the most devastated neighborhoods of Homs, a city under relentless bombardment by government forces over recent weeks.
The “Friends” meeting also endorsed the concept of a joint Arab League-United Nations peacekeeping force that would enter Syria, presumably once Assad left power, and secure the country during a democratic transition process.
The meeting suffered from the glaring absence of Russia and China. Their joint veto of UN Security Council action on Syria earlier this month continues to limit the possibilities and effectiveness of international intervention. Some countries lay responsibility for Syria’s mounting violence and death toll at Russia’s feet, with France in particular declaring that Assad has interpreted the veto as “a license to kill.”
What happened on the margins of the "Friends" meeting was, in some ways, as important to Syria’s future as what in the general sessions. British Foreign Minister William Hague announced his country’s recognition of the Syrian National Council, the opposition umbrella group, before he met with the council’s president, Burhan Ghalioun. Secretary Clinton also met with Mr. Ghalioun.
Saying Britain’s intent is to “intensify our links with the opposition,” Mr. Hague said a number of countries “will now treat them and recognize them as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”
In her comments to the meeting, Clinton described the Syrian National Council (SNC) as “a leading legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change” and as an “effective representative for the Syrian people with governments and international organizations.”
But she also hinted at US frustration with the inability of Syria’s disparate opposition forces to unite under one representative transitional coalition, as the opposition in Libya did. Clinton praised the SNC for “articulating a plan for the future” but added that the US is looking for “the full range of opposition groups and individuals in Syria, including representatives of all ethnic and religious minorities, to come together around that common vision” for Syria’s political transition.