July 6th, 2012
08:39 AM ET

Clinton slams Russia, China over Syria

From Elise Labott reporting from Paris

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lambasted Russia and China on Friday for blocking efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose much-reviled regime has endured a serious crack in its armor - the defection of a key member of its inner circle.

Speaking at the Friends of Syria conference in Paris, Clinton called on Russia and China to "get off the sidelines" and accused them of "standing up for" al-Assad's regime. She urged the other 60 or so nations represented at the summit to "make it clear that Russia and China will pay a price" for that support.

"I ask you to reach out to Russia and China and not only ask but demand that they get off the sidelines," she said. "I don't think Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all, nothing at all, for standing with (the) Assad regime."

But it was unclear whether those two nations will reverse their longstanding opposition to forcing al-Assad from power. The two trade partners of Syria have vetoed previous efforts by the U.N. Security Council to condemn the violence in Syria and oust al-Assad. Neither Russia nor China was represented at the Paris meeting.

Western and Arab nations started the Friends of Syria initiative because both countries posed diplomatic obstacles in tackling the Syrian crisis. The United States and others hope this meeting of the group could lead to stricter economic sanctions and more support for the opposition.

Clinton's tough comments came as a Western diplomat confirmed that Manaf Tlas, a general in Syria's elite Republican Guards, abandoned the regime.

Tlas, the son of a former Syrian defense minister, defected over the killing of Sunnis, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official was not authorized to speak to the media.

"He's an inside confidant of Assad. So it counts that even an insider thinks it's time to go," the official said.

His father, a former defense minister, and the rest of his family are in Paris, the official said. It was not immediately known if Tlas was on his way to France.

The defection is one more blow for al-Assad, who Clinton said has been feeling the bite of economic sanctions. The Syrian leader's "currency and foreign reserves have collapsed," she said, curbing his ability to continue his crackdown.

But she said challenges remain. Al-Assad was being kept afloat by "money from Iran and assistance from Russia and the failure of countries here" at the conference to tighten economic sanctions.

"None of us is satisfied or comfortable with what is going on in Syria," she said.

But she noted that in the last several months since the Friends of Syria met in Tunis in February, "there has been a steady march toward ending this regime."

The Paris meeting comes less than a week after a conference of foreign ministers, which included China and Russia, met in Geneva, Switzerland, and called for a transitional government body as a step toward ending the Syrian crisis.

That emergency meeting, called by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, raised hopes that Russia was easing its position. But even as Russia appeared to agree that a key step in the peace process was the establishment of a transitional government, the country's foreign minister said it should not be viewed as outside powers imposing a transitional government on Syrians.

Senior U.S. officials said the United States and its European and Arab partners will move to impose global sanctions if Syria doesn't quickly implement the transition plan that includes the appointment of a new government.

Diplomats at the United Nations are already working on a document that would demand restrictions on oil and other commercial business with the Syrian regime if it refuses to implement the Annan peace plan for a cease-fire and a transitional government. A Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter could be introduced next week, the officials said.

Chapter 7 could ultimately authorize the use of force.

The officials said the Russian and Chinese willingness to discuss a political transition plan in Syria and sign on to that plan last week in Geneva could boost the effort to impose sanctions. The absence of the two nations at the Paris conference, however, reflects the difficulties ahead in persuading Moscow and Beijing to back the resolution.

Clinton praised the Syrian opposition's six-page "vision" for a Syrian transition, unveiled last week at its meeting in Cairo, Egypt.

The United States hopes the document, which has details on a new parliament and constitution, will allay fears of Alawite and other minority groups that the Sunnis leading the fight against al-Assad will grab all of the power and take revenge on al-Assad's supporters. The regime is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, and the opposition is largely Sunni.

French President François Hollande also called for al-Assad's departure Friday, saying a political transition is the only way to end 16 months of violence in the Middle East nation.

Members of the Syrian opposition attended the Paris meeting, and many are pushing for the imposition of a no-fly zone in Syria.

Riad Seif, a former member of parliament recently allowed to leave Syria to seek medical treatment, made an impassioned plea at the meeting.

"After so many conferences, we fail to see how we have so many friends and people are dying every day," Seif said. "We would like your friendship to be effective, to put an end to this massacre."

At least nine people were killed in fighting early Friday, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria. Among the dead, the LCC said, were six in hard-hit Idlib, a flashpoint in the uprising that began in March 2011 and has left thousands dead. Those deaths follows reports that at least 70 people were killed Thursday, the LCC said.

CNN cannot independently confirm reports of violence or casualties as Syria has limited access by international journalists.

CNN's Ben Brumfield and Chelsea Carter contributed to this report.

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Aaron Chaney

    Covetousness is a sin. Translation: Tunisia only has received proper remuneration during the so-called Arab Spring because they are an original. All the rest i.e. Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and yes Syria, are all covetous copycats.

    July 9, 2012 at 11:46 am | Reply
  2. AntiWarMonger

    Another Arab Spring in the making. What's the result? Will Americans ever learn from the history?

    July 6, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Reply
  3. Phunnie boy

    Like most of you here, I too admire Hilary Clinton for her unmitigated arrogance and self righteousness. She fills my heart with pride, she does, she does! But then again, I'm just an ignorant Tea Partier from the South with very little education so I rely on my superiors to tell what to think and how to think it!!!!!!!!!!

    July 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Don't worry! Mitt Romney has "promised" to take care of you (and your stupid ideas). Tax breaks for the rich will "cure everything", just follow Mitt!

      July 6, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  4. CLINTON leaves obama in the dust of failure

    Mrs Clinton is in Europe , distancing Her self far from the failures of obama as the jobs reports sinks into recession .

    tip of the hat Mrs Clinton for continuing in the JOB OF AMERICAN INTEREST INSTEAD OF COUNTING POLLS !

    July 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Reply
  5. Wow

    Hilary is beautiful.

    July 6, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
    • CLINTON leaves obama in the dust of failure

      Hey guy, Mrs Clinton is anything but beautiful , BUT ONE THING SHE IS , A HARD WORKING AMERICAN , unlike her failed boss obama .

      July 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Reply
  6. Jefferson Roosevelt

    Anyone else notice that Hillary is starting to resemble chubby trailer trash in Sunday clothes?

    July 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Reply
  7. John Defoe

    I love the United States of Israel!

    July 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Reply
    • common guy

      You are an idiot. People like you need to stop bringing up Israel in things like this. They have their own problems. Grow up and learn that not everything involves the Jewish nation.

      July 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Reply
  8. John Defoe

    It's that AIPAC witch again. Do more for Monica Lewinsky, Mrs Clinton, do more.

    July 6, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Reply
  9. Concerned Citizen

    Hilary Clinton lost here in St Petersburg, now she's dissiminating empty threats. Anyone who is following this phony lady is a fool, her political career is over, it's time to admit it to herself.

    July 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Reply
    • Jefferson Roosevelt

      Gotta love it, Obama sends Hillary to stand up to Putin. I remember the conference Putin had with Bush some years back where they gave an interview afterwards, and Bush was obviously not only intimidated but seemed to actually be in physical fear. That’s why you won’t see that scenario with Obama; Putin would destroy him with one of those stares. Lord, I'd love to see Barry lose bladder control on camera.

      July 6, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Reply
  10. Quisling

    Ooooo, Hillary "slams" them? That's a real diplomatic power play. I'll bet they're trembling and intend to change their evil ways any second now. C1inton = failure, whining from a position of weakness. Losing wars that were already won, mismanaging the Arab spring, kowtowing to China who owns us...the weakness is palpable.

    July 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Reply
  11. George Patton

    I see that Hilary Clinton's on her high horse again with her unmitigated arrogance and self-righteousness telling everyone what to do and not to do! Just who is this broad to demand that Bashar al-Assad step down anyway? That needs to be for the Syrians themselves to decide, not this self-righteous broad! This is truly disgusting to say the least!!!

    July 6, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Reply
  12. Sean Roche

    My hero Hillary!

    July 6, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Reply
    • George Patton

      Please Phunnie boy, there's a time and a place for everything. This kind of joke above is inappropriate here.

      July 6, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Reply
  13. offtheworldpolitics

    Russia is not going to help anyone. They are still bitter from when they were in Afghanistan, and they are poised to make immense oil profits from a prolonged conflict in the region. I must admit that we could learn a little from their counter terror policies though...

    July 6, 2012 at 9:47 am | Reply
  14. saeed

    someone needs to take this women back to the hospital she is a nutjob like some cancer patient that has escaped and is yelling like a crazy women in the middel of the street. man usa and british people are like down syndrome patiants british and usa people are morrons like at these women she looks like an animale from the forest gnarlig with her teeth. i almost feel sorry for usa and british people they are like a retarded kid.

    July 6, 2012 at 8:49 am | Reply
    • Ben

      Go back to school and learn how to spell! YOUR the MORON for talking trash, talking about 2 countries that are better then your's! Jealous much? Then to top it off your talking bad about disabled people. Get a life you loser.

      July 6, 2012 at 10:42 am | Reply
    • ILoveNY

      Hey Saeed – why don't you record yourself, then playback so you can hear the voice of the most immense idiot of all times. Then go kill yourself!

      July 6, 2012 at 10:53 am | Reply
      • saeed

        that was funny this is coming from a guy thats sister is in adult movies on the internet usa and britain are to bankcrupt loo,ser go home to your baked potato and sausage dinner grin,gos.

        July 6, 2012 at 11:09 am |

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