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'Friends of Syria' statement angers Russia

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'Friends of Syria' statement angers Russia


The “Friends of Syria” meeting in Paris has ended with the hundred or so nations gathered in the French capital cheered by the news of a top-flight defection from Bashar al-Assad’s camp.

However comments from Hillary Clinton about the role of Russia and China in keeping the Syrian president in power have angered Moscow.

The US Secretary of State urged conference members to up the pressure on Russia and China to stop supporting Damascus.

“Frankly, 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. The only way that will change is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear that Russia and China will pay a price. Because they are holding up progress, blockading it. That is no longer tolerable,” she said.

But Moscow has hit back saying it was “incorrect” to suggest Russia should pay a price. Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov added said Clinton’s remarks ran contrary to what was agreed at a meeting in Geneva last weekend on a transition government for Syria.

Meanwhile Paris confirmed Manaf Tlas, an army general and personal friend of Assad, has defected. At one point it was rumoured he was on his way to the meeting but that proved unfounded.

Had he done so it might have gone some way to appease Syria’s fractured opposition which is growing impatient with what it sees as an endless series of talking shops, and draw comparisons with international reaction to the uprising in Libya.

One member of the Syrian National Council gave vent to his frustration as the meeting ended.

“I am not satisfied at all because we’re not waiting for communiques,” he said. “Syrians want to know how to stop the massacres. Everyday there are 100, 130, 150 victims and that’s all people can think about. They want action, they want measures to stop the killings.”

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