By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe says the day is coming when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — along with civilian and military authorities in his regime — will face justice for crimes against Syria’s population.
Speaking to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Juppe said Assad himself would be “first among them” to face justice.
Juppe also criticized the UN Security Council’s “impotence” on Syria, demonstrated by vetoes from China and Russia of an Arab League peace plan. He said the Arab League plan was the “only path” forward to end the crisis.
Juppe’s remarks come ahead of an emergency debate about Syria on February 28 by the 47-member UN forum in Geneva.
European Union foreign ministers have imposed fresh sanctions on Syria amid increasing diplomatic efforts to end a nearly yearlong government crackdown on civilians and opposition protesters.
Measures decided at the meeting in Brussels included a freeze on Syrian central-bank assets, an EU travel ban on Syrian officials seen as close to President Bashar al-Assad, and restrictions on trade and cargo flights into the EU.
The EU has already blacklisted almost 150 Syrian entities and people, and imposed an oil and arms embargo against Assad’s regime.
‘Friends Of Syria’
The new EU moves come days after foreign ministers from Western and Arab countries pledged at a “Friends of Syria” conference in Tunis to increase pressure on Assad’s regime and boost support for the opposition
Russia, Iran, and China all boycotted the meeting. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on February 27 criticized the “Friends of Syria” meeting, saying it ignored Moscow’s call to end the 11-month violence through dialogue rather than Assad’s ouster.
Kofi Annan, the newly named UN-Arab League envoy on Syria, added to diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict on February 27, holding separate talks with Juppe and Ali Akbar Salehi, the foreign minister of Iran. Tehran is seen as Syria’s strongest regional ally.
The flurry of Western diplomatic activity came as Syrian state television announced that close to 89 percent of voters in a February 26 referendum supported a new constitution proposed by Assad.
The new constitution, introduced amid rising international criticism of Assad’s regime, officially lays the way for a multiparty system and presidential term limits.
But Assad’s opponents boycotted the referendum, calling it a farce and demanding Assad’s resignation. Turnout in the referendum was reported at just over 57 percent.
A joint team from the International Red Cross and Syria’s Arab Red Crescent Society, meanwhile, reported on February 27 that it was able to enter the besieged Syrian city of Hama for the first time in more than a month.
Relief workers delivered food supplies sufficient for 12,000 people. Red Cross spokesman Hicham Hassan said the organization was now focused on reaching the city of Homs, which has been targeted by Syrian Army artillery fire for the past several weeks.
“For us, the humanitarian situation [in Homs] is degenerating by the hour, and this is why it is absolutely important that we enter as soon as possible,” Hassan said. “On one hand to evacuate all those who need to be evacuated and on the other hand to bring in much-needed assistance.”
Syrian rights activists say the death toll since Assad’s regime launched its crackdown against civilians and opposition protesters 11 months ago is as high as 8,000.
The United Nations said at the start of the offensive against Homs several weeks ago that the death toll was about 6,000 and that it was no longer able to keep track of the number of people being killed in the violence.