Last Updated: Thu Apr 19, 2012 14:14 pm (KSA) 11:14 am (GMT)

Foreign ministers to discuss Syria in Paris; Russia boycotts ‘one-sided’ meet

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that the U.N. observer mission in Syria would require between 300 and 400 people to oversee the country properly. (Reuters)
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that the U.N. observer mission in Syria would require between 300 and 400 people to oversee the country properly. (Reuters)

Western and Arab foreign ministers were to meet in Paris Thursday for talks that France says will send a strong message to Syria’s regime, but Russia said the meeting would damage chances for peace.

The meeting was due just hours after French President Nicolas Sarkozy accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of seeking to “wipe Homs from the map,” referring to a flashpoint rebel city being shelled by Syrian forces.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe was to host U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and 12 foreign ministers for talks France said would pressure the Syrian regime to abide by the U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.

Juppe, speaking shortly before the meeting, said the group would discuss contingency plans for a potential unraveling of a U.N.-backed peace plan.

“If it is not possible (to implement the plan) then we will look at what new measures need to be taken,” Juppe told a media briefing ahead of the talks with delegations from 14 countries including the United States, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

He said that the U.N. observer mission in Syria would require between 300 and 400 people to oversee the country properly.

The foreign ministers will send “a message of firmness and support for Kofi Annan,” he added.

Russia called the Friends of Syria meeting “destructive” and could undermine Annan’s peace efforts.

Russia was invited but stayed away because the talks were “one-sided” without representation from the Syrian government, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

The goal of the meeting appeared to be not to seek dialogue among Syrians but “on the contrary, to deepen differences between the opposition and Damascus by stimulating the international isolation of the latter,” he said.

Russia said the meeting differed little from two previous Friends of Syria conferences that Moscow also skipped because they included calls for Assad’s ouster.

China meanwhile said Thursday it was considering sending observers to monitor a Syrian ceasefire that came into force last week but is under threat as violence escalates.

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.

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