As diplomats from some seventy nations huddled in Tunisia Friday to discuss the Syrian crisis, they had two objectives: to demand an immediate cessation of violence in Syria and to call on authorities in that country to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to cities under siege from Bashar al-Assad's security forces.
A draft communique from the so-called Friends of Syria would also move towards recognizing the Syrian National Council, an opposition umbrella group, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, according to Reuters.
The 'Friends'—a group of Arab and European states, the United States and Turkey—are mulling whether to direct the United Nations to prepare a possible peacekeeping mission to enter Syria after a cessation of hostilities, the Associated Press reported. An American official attending the conference confirmed the proposal to Yahoo, but said the peacekeeping mission would only enter Syria after the violence ends under a UN "chapter 6" resolution, with the consent of the Syrian government.Almost 7,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the regime's assault against the 11-month uprising.
But the efforts of the group are also meant to signal that Assad is headed for the fate of the region's fallen dictators. That message, the group hopes, will prompt more members of his regime and security forces to defect.
"It is clear to me there will be a breaking point," Hillary Clinton told journalists in London Thursday. "I wish it would be sooner, so that more lives would be saved, than later, but I have absolutely no doubt there will be such a breaking point."
The conference--held in the capital of the north African country whose democratic uprising in December 2010 set off a wave of popular "Arab spring" revolts across the Middle East--comes a day after the United Nations and Arab League jointly named former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as their special envoy to Syria.
Annan "will provide good offices aimed at bringing an end to all violence and human rights violations, and promoting a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis," a UN communique on the appointment said. "He will consult broadly and engage with all relevant interlocutors within and outside Syria in order to end the violence and the humanitarian crisis, and facilitate a peaceful Syrian-led and inclusive political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people."
Earlier Friday, some 200 pro-Assad demonstrators tried to storm the Tunis hotel where the Friends of Syria conference was taking place, delaying Clinton's arrival at the venue.
"The protesters, waving Syrian and Tunisian flags, tussled with police," temporarily forcing "Clinton to be diverted to her hotel, delaying her appearance" at the conference, the Associated Press reported.