France Slams 'Isolated' Russia over Syria Talks Snubإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Western and Arab foreign ministers were to meet in Paris on Thursday for talks on the Syria crisis, with France warning Russia that its refusal to attend was plunging it deeper into isolation.
"I regret that Russia continues to lock itself into a vision that isolates it more and more, not just from the Arab world but also from the international community," Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told journalists.
He was speaking ahead of hosting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and 12 counterparts backing tougher action against Syria's Bashar al-Assad and said he regretted his Russian counterpart's Sergei Lavrov absence.
"I personally invited Mr. Lavrov to come," he said.
With Russian opposition preventing the adoption of a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Assad, an ad hoc group of states who dub themselves the "Friends of Syria" are examining other options.
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday that these could include the imposition of humanitarian corridors within Syria in order to get aid to beleaguered opposition bastions.
But Lavrov said that Moscow was "honestly fulfilling its part" to end the violence and that the international community should stop predicting that U.N. envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan would fail.
"I have today called on my colleagues to abandon the rhetoric of self-fulfilling prophecies that Kofi Annan's plan will certainly fail," Lavrov said in Brussels.
"Before thinking about what to do in the future, we should do everything to make this plan successful."
Juppe said the Paris meeting would discuss boosting the number of U.N. monitors on the ground overseeing a theoretical ceasefire, which Assad has vowed to respect under the U.N. and Arab League peace plan.
"The regime is not living up to its undertakings. The ceasefire is not being respected," Juppe said.
"Can we deploy an effective observer force on the ground, which would have numbers? We'd need at least 300 to 400 robust, well-equipped observers with the means to travel around the country.
"Our second objective: if that is not possible within a certain timeframe, what other measures or initiatives can we take to end the massacre."
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon also called for more observers to be sent to Syria to monitor the tenuous week-old truce, saying that "an opportunity for progress may now exist, on which we need to build."
The U.N. leader said he wants 300 unarmed observers sent on a three-month mission, and added it was "critical" for Assad's regime to adhere to the peace plan agreed with Annan.
The 300 observers would be deployed over several weeks. They would go to about 10 different parts of Syria to monitor the fragile cessation of hostilities that began on April 12 and the implementation of Annan's plan.
Ministers from Germany, Turkey, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere are to attend the Paris talks which would, Juppe said, send "a message of firmness and support for Kofi Annan."
Russia has said the meeting differed little from two previous Friends of Syria conferences that Moscow also skipped because they included calls for Assad's ouster.
Its foreign ministry said the Paris meeting was as "one-sided" as the Friends of Syria talks because it failed to include representatives from the Syrian regime.
China and Russia both drew international criticism earlier this year for vetoing two U.N. Security Council resolutions on the Syria crisis which were critical of Assad.
The two countries have since backed Annan's efforts to bring peace to Syria in the form of a six-point proposal agreed by Damascus that includes the ceasefire and withdrawal of troops.
But there have been reports of fresh violence in Syria -- where the U.N. says over 9,000 people have died in the past 13 months of fighting -- despite the ceasefire.
Syrian troops have continued to pound rebel strongholds, including Homs, even while the regime sought to reassure an increasingly skeptical world that it is committed to a week-old ceasefire.