Friends Of Syria Call For Timetable On Change

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Joon
Representatives of more than 80 nations met in Istanbul on the weekend along with representatives of the Syrian opposition to keep up the pressure on president Bashar al-Assad to end the violence in his country.

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ELEANOR HALL: Representatives of more than 80 nations met in Istanbul on the weekend along with representatives of the Syrian opposition to keep up the pressure on president Bashar al-Assad to end the violence in his country.

The group which calls itself the Friends of Syria called on the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to give the Syrian leader a timeline to deliver on his ceasefire commitment.

The group also committed to paying salaries to rebels fighting the Assad government with the funds to come from several Arab countries, as Europe correspondent, Rachael Brown, reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton says the Syrian president is mistaken if he thinks he can defeat his opposition.

HILLARY CLINTON: Despite the dangers the next step has to be to translate it into a political action plan. That's how the opposition will build momentum, strip away Assad's remaining support and expose the regime's hypocrisy.

RACHAEL BROWN: Addressing the summit of more than 80 nations Mrs Clinton said it's unlikely president Assad will ever implement the peace plan he agreed on with the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

HILLARY CLINTON: Bashar al-Assad has so far refused to honour his pledge. There is no more time for excuses or delays, this is a moment of truth.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Everything the Assad regime has done looks like stalling for time.

RACHAEL BROWN: The UK's foreign secretary William Hague agrees president Assad could be buying time to crush the rebellion.

Already 9,000 people have died in the year-long revolt according to UN figures. But Mr Hague says it's important the international community at least attempts the peace plan.

WILLIAM HAGUE: What is now being put to them is a plan from Kofi Annan supported by the whole United Nations Security Council. And this is an important point. It's supported by Russia and by China.

RACHAEL BROWN: But there's been a pointed absence of Russia and China at the summit.

The opposition Syrian National Council's president is Burhan Ghalioun.

(Sound of Burhan Ghalioun speaking)

"My people need help," he says. "We want a buffer zone to protect civilians and more help for the Free Syrian Army which is fighting for its people."

His request was granted. Wealthy Arab states will be supplying millions of dollars a month for the Syrian National Council fund.

Rebels will be paid salaries and money will be given to soldiers who defect from the government's army.

But the salaries are somewhat of a compromise and Syrian refugees in Turkish camps are angry.

(Sound of female Syrian refugee speaking)

"This meeting was supposed to give weapons to the Free Syrian Army," says this refugee.

(Sound of male Syrian refugee speaking)

Another says, "This will give Bashar Assad the opportunity to carry out more massacres."

Some countries, notably Saudi Arabia, have been calling for insurgents to be given weapons.

The rebels have reportedly been getting an unofficial trickle of light weapons but they're no match for the Assad regime's heavy tanks and artillery.

But countries including the US and Turkey oppose arming the insurgents, fearing it could fuel a civil war.

So for now the French foreign minister Alain Juppe says the focus remains on diplomatic choke-holds.

ALAIN JUPPE: So the idea is to coordinate those sanctions and to check that they are really implemented on the ground, but also the freeze of financial assets of the central bank, oil embargo.

RACHAEL BROWN: Kofi Annan presents his report to the UN Security Council later today. He's being urged to set a timeline for further pressure on the regime.

This is Rachael Brown in London reporting for The World Today.