Representatives of more than 70 nations in Tunisia for the “Friends of Syria” meeting have called for an immediate end to violence in the country and for new sanctions on the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
In a final declaration on Friday, the group also called to allow for humanitarian aid to be brought in.
It vowed to “press the Syrian regime to stop all acts of violence” by enforcing current sanctions and introducing new ones, including with travel bans, asset freezes, ceasing oil purchases, reducing diplomatic ties and preventing the shipment of arms.
“[Friends of Syria] demanded that the Syrian regime immediately permit humanitarian agencies to deliver vital relief goods and services to civilians affected by the violence,” the declaration said.
The group also recognised the main opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), as “a legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change” but fell short of giving it exclusive recognition.
The head of the SNC expressed disappointment in the Tunis meeting.
“This conference does not meet the aspirations of the Syrian people,” Burhan Ghalioun said.
The declaration did not fully endorse some Arab calls for peacekeepers to be deployed to Syria, with the declaration saying only that it “noted the Arab League’s request to the United Nations Security Council to issue a resolution to form a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping force”.
Prior to the declaration, Saudi Arabia and Qatar pushed for a more forceful intervention in Syria, with Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, saying he supported the arming of opposition fighters.
Faisal said Syrians had the right to defend themselves against a crackdown by security forces that has left thousands dead.
‘Against aspirations of Syrians’
Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, said an Arab force should be created to impose peace and open humanitarian corridors in Syria.
Moves for tough action against Syria in the UN Security Council were stalled by Russian and Chinese vetoes and a lack of appetite for military action to end Assad’s crackdown, leaving delegates in Tunis with limited options.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the international community must work to change Russia and China’s positions against measures to stop the Syrian regime’s crackdown.
“They must understand they are setting themselves against the aspirations not only of the Syrian people but of the entire Arab Spring,” she told journalists after the meeting in Tunis.
Earlier, the UN and the Arab League appointed Kofi Annan, a former UN secretary-general, to act as a joint special envoy on Syria.
The native of Ghana, who along with the UN was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2001, has a track record as a mediator, having negotiated a power-sharing deal in Kenya to defuse post-election tensions in 2008.