French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
PARIS - France raised the pressure on Russia on Saturday by warning that
countries that blocked a UN Security Council resolution on Syria after
activists said more than 200 people were killed in Homs would bear a
"heavy responsibility in history".
The comments came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a
draft UN resolution on Syria was "not hopeless," but needed amendments
to avoid giving the impression the world body was taking sides.
"The international community must recognize and support the right of the
Syrian people to freedom, security and the choice of its political
future," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a statement that
described the situation in Homs as "savagery."
"Those who block the adoption of such a resolution will bear a heavy responsibility in history," he said.
Paris is pushing hard for the adoption of the resolution condemning the
Syrian government's crackdown on 11 months of protests and backing an
Arab League peace plan that would see power transfer from Syrian President
The resolution, which has already been watered down to try to win
Moscow's backing, expresses "full support" for an Arab League plan that
calls for Assad to cede power.
Russia, which is threatening to use its veto, has said its main
objection is that the draft sets down measures to be taken against
Assad's government, but not against armed groups who were manipulating
France has consistently said it could not accept a resolution that
blamed equally the Syrian authorities and opposition for the violence
which Juppe said has already seen 6,000 deaths.
The diplomatic manoeuvres were made more urgent by reports from Syrian
activists on Saturday that more than 200 people had been killed in
shelling by government forces in the city of Homs.
Juppe condemned the events. "Instead of stopping its policy of repression, the Syrian authorities
have jumped a new hurdle in its savagery: the massacre in Homs is a
crime against humanity and those responsible will have to answer for
it," he said.
Paris has been prominent in Western efforts to try to force Assad to end
the crackdown on protests and has suggested a need to set up zones to
protect civilians, the first proposal by a Western power for outside
intervention on the ground.
Britain also condemned the violence, with Foreign Secretary William
Hague saying: "The Syrian regime's actions display President Assad's
cold-blooded cynicism in the face of mounting international pressure for
the UN Security Council to do its utmost to end the bloodshed in
Syria denied shelling the area and said Internet video of corpses was
staged. It is not possible to verify activist or state media reports as
Syria restricts independent media access.
Lavrov warned of a "scandal" if the Security Council voted on the
current version at 3 p.m. GMT on Saturday as scheduled. US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, however, had "vigorous" talks with him on
Saturday about his objections to the draft resolution and expressed hope
that Moscow will vote 'yes,' a US official said.
She and Lavrov agreed on the urgency of the situation in Syria,
and Clinton made it clear she believed the vote should go ahead on
Saturday as scheduled, said a senior US State Department official,
speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The secretary and foreign minister had a very vigorous discussion. They
agreed that the situation on the ground is urgent, given the violence,"
the official told reporters after the meeting took place at the Munich
"The secretary made clear that we feel, that the United States feels
strongly that the UN Security Council should vote today," said the
official, adding that the "action" now moves to the UN headquarters in
Minor scuffles broke out at the Russian embassy in the French capital on Saturday during a pro-Assad demonstration.
About 20 supporters of the Syrian president were confronted by about 50
people against the government, according to a Reuters witness. Nobody
was injured, but the police stepped in to make some arrests. An
anti-Assad demonstration was also due to take place later on Saturday in