Clinton slams Russia, China over Syria (C N N)
Date : 2012-07-06 07:45:32
Paris (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lambasted Russia and China on Friday for blocking efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose much-reviled regime has endured a serious crack in its armor -- the defection of one of its key members.
Speaking at the Friends of Syria conference in Paris, Clinton called on Russia and China to "get off the sidelines" and accused them of "standing up for" al-Assad's regime. She urged the other 100 or so nations and organizations represented at the summit to "make it clear that Russia and China will pay a price" for that support.
"I ask you to reach out to Russia and China and not only ask but demand that they get off the sidelines," she said. "I don't think Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all, nothing at all, for standing with (the) Assad regime."
High-ranking general defects from Syrian military
But it was unclear whether those two nations will reverse their longstanding opposition to forcing al-Assad from power. The two trade partners of Syria have vetoed previous efforts by the U.N. Security Council to condemn the violence in Syria and oust al-Assad. Neither Russia nor China was represented at the Paris meeting.
Western and Arab nations started the Friends of Syria initiative because both countries posed diplomatic obstacles in tackling the Syrian crisis. The United States and others hope this meeting of the group could lead to stricter economic sanctions and more support for the opposition.
Speaking after the meeting wrapped up, Clinton argued for additional sanctions to be backed by a Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. Chapter 7 could ultimately authorize the use of force.
"No transition plan can progress as long as the regime's brutal assaults continue," she said. "That's why the entire world is looking at those few nations who have influence in Damascus."
Clinton warned allies of al-Assad within Syria that evidence of abuses is being collected and that they should "get on the right side of history."
She added: "Let me say to the soldiers and officials still supporting the Syrian regime -- the Syrian people will remember the choices you make in the coming days."
Clinton's tough comments came as a Western diplomat confirmed that Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlas of Syria's elite Republican Guards has abandoned the regime.
Tlas, the son of a former Syrian defense minister, defected over the killing of Sunnis, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official was not authorized to speak to the media.
"He's an inside confidant of Assad. So it counts that even an insider thinks it's time to go," the official said.
His father, a former defense minister, and the rest of his family are in Paris, the official said.
Western officials told CNN that Tlas is on his way to Paris. It was not immediately known if he has joined the Syrian opposition.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, speaking at the end of the Friends of Syria meeting, called the defection of someone close to al-Assad a "hard blow" for the regime.
"We are told of the defection of someone quite important in the regime, very close to Bashar al-Assad, which means that his close entourage is starting to understand that the regime is unsustainable," he said.