U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday called upon the international community to "directly and urgently make it clear that Russia and China will pay a price" because they are holding up progress toward a democratic transition in Syria.
"I don't think Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all - nothing at all - for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime," she told the third meeting of the "Friends of Syria," which opened in Paris.
Russia, along with China, has twice vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria and continued to be the Syrian government's largest arms supplier. Russia and China are not attending the Paris meeting.
French President Francois Hollande, who hosted the meeting of Foreign Ministers and senior diplomats, called for stiffer sanctions against Syria's Assad and more support for rebels demanding his ouster.
The Friends of Syria, led by France, the United States, Britain, Germany, and Arab nations Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is a contact group that brings together officials from international organizations and more than 60 countries, including most European Union and Arab League members and seeks to co-ordinate Western and Arab efforts to stop the violence in Syria.
The Paris meeting will consult on steps to increase pressure on the Assad regime and to support U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan's efforts to end the violence and facilitate a political transition to a post-Assad Syria.
Ahead of the meeting, Amnesty International called for the imposition of an immediate arms embargo aimed at stopping the transfer of arms to the Syrian government, a Security Council referral of the situation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and an assets freeze on President Bashar al-Assad and his close associates.
It called on the Friends of Syria to "leave this meeting in France with a clear plan to end crimes under international law and ensure justice, truth and full reparation for victims."
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reportedly told the meeting that General Manaf Tlas, who belongs to a pro-Assad influential family, has defected and was heading to Paris.
by RTT Staff Writer
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