'Friends of Syria' agree to more sanctions and meetings, but no arms

The United States and Japan pledged on Friday (Feb. 24) $10 million and $3 million in humanitarian aid for refugees and internally displaced persons in Syria. The question remains, however, on how assistance will reach victims of the violence.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have succeeded in evacuating 27 civilians from the Baba Amr district of Homs during a temporary ceasefire on Friday, the Boston Herald reports. But aid groups, after much negotiation with government and opposition representatives, were not able to do more after. The government has yet to respond to the aid agencies’ request for a daily, two-hour ceasefire.

The so-called “Friends of Syria” have reached a concensus on three major issues: getting humanitarian aid to the country, increasing pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and preparing for the country’s democratic transition.

The more than 70 nations that participated in the meeting have agreed to place additional sanctions on Syria, including travel bans on senior officials, asset freezes, Syrian oil “boycot,” suspension of new investments, and the closure of embassies and consulates. In addition, the group has recognized the Syrian National Council as a “leading legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change.”

All these, however, did not seem to satisfy everyone’s palate.

SNC leader Burhan Ghalioun said the meeting “fell short” of the Syrian people’s aspirations, Time magazine reports. Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, meanwhile, walked out of the conference due to “inactivity,” news channel Al-Arabiya says, according to Time. Both are in favor of arming Syrian rebels, a measure Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem said was not discussed at the meeting.

“We have had enough failed military excursions in the region,” Abdessalem said. “We do not want to use military force or weapons. We want a peaceful transition.”

A peaceful transition, however, seems quite bleak at the moment. Russia and Iran, both allies of the current regime, have lauded the constitutional overhaul Assad is pushing forward in the country, according to the Boston Herald.

But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was confident Assad’s days are “numbered.” She is hoping China and Russia will have a change of attitude and support action in the Security Council. She said it is quite “distressing” that the two permanent members of the council are “using their veto” when people are being murdered and houses are being destroyed in Syria.

“It is just despicable,” Clinton said. “Whose side are they on? They are clearly not on the side of the Syrian people.”

The group is rumored to hold a second meeting in Turkey, and a third in France, Time reports.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.