Clinton rips Russia, China for 'blockading' Syrian peace plan

Russia and China are "blockading" progress in Syria and should be made to pay a price for it, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday.

Speaking in Paris at a gathering of some 60 Western and Arab countries collectively known as the “Friends of Syria,” Clinton called out the two nations in unusually harsh terms for having twice used their veto power on the United Nations Security Council to block resolutions critical of President Bashar Assad. 

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“I ask you to reach out to Russia and China and to not only urge, but demand that they get off the sidelines and begin to support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people,” Clinton said. “It is frankly not enough just to come to the Friends of the Syrian People, because I will tell you very frankly, I don’t think Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all — nothing at all — for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime. 

"The only way that will change is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear that Russia and China will pay a price, because they are holding up progress — blockading it — that is no longer tolerable.”

Russia, in particular, has continued to arm Syria, a strategic ally, despite what many observers have called a civil war in the country that has left more than 15,000 people dead over the past 16 months.

Clinton noted that China and Russia both agreed to a government transition in Syria when they endorsed U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan's transition plan last weekend in Geneva, saying they should now follow through at the United Nations. She said the Security Council should quickly meet and consider sanctions if Assad does not comply with the calls for the formation of a new government approved by the Syrian people, which would include rebel forces and members of the current government.

“It is imperative to go back to the Security Council and demand implementation of Kofi Annan’s plan, including the Geneva communique that Russia and China have already agreed to,” Clinton said, adding that Syria should face sanctions if Assad rejects the plan. “So we now have them on record supporting a transition. And we should go back and ask for a resolution in the Security Council that imposes real and immediate consequences for non-compliance."

However, Russia and the United States are at odds over whether Annan's plan implicitly requires that Assad step down. That disagreement is likely to bog down any negotiations at the United Nations.

Clinton said that the United States has already spent more than $57 million to support humanitarian organizations in Syria, and she called on other countries to do more.