Foreign Secretary William Hague will attend the third ‘Friends of Syria’ meeting today in Paris. The Paris meeting follows a gathering in Tunis and another in Istanbul, both of which called in vain for tougher action against Assad’s government.
At the meeting today, the US is set to call for tougher new UN sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle. However, despite the more than 16,500 people estimated killed in the 16-month uprising against Assad’s regime, Syria’s key allies Russia and China — which both hold UN veto rights — are not attending, despite reports of changing attitudes in Moscow.
Speaking as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Paris for the meeting, one US official told AFP it was time “to put this all together under a Security Council resolution that increases the pressure on Assad, including having real consequences,” such as economic sanctions.
“We believe most of the countries represented in Paris, think that has to include Chapter 7 economic sanctions on Assad,” said the official. Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which allows for sanctions ranging from economic measures to an arms embargo, and if necessary military force, was last used against Libya in 2011. However, it is highly controversial at the UN Security Council, given Russia and China’s veto powers.
In related news, WikiLeaks said yesterday that it was in the process of publishing material from 2.4 million Syrian emails – many of which it said have come from official Syrian government accounts.
WikiLeaks’ Sarah Harrison told journalists at London’s Frontline Club that the emails reveal interactions between the Syrian government and Western companies, although she declined to go into further detail. Harrison quoted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as saying that “the material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s external opponents.”