U.S. officials expressed confidence in Syrian opposition unity and in the National Compact document that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents have drafted to direct the country’s transition after his ouster.
One official, who wasn’t authorized to comment on the record, spoke yesterday as the “Friends of Syria” group prepared to meet in Paris. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the French capital for the session, the first stop in a two-week trip that takes her to at least eight nations.
The group today will discuss humanitarian aid and ways to increase pressure on Assad including, the official said, increased United Nations sanctions. The potential actions include those under so-called UN Chapter 7 provisions that allow for the use of military force to enforce sanctions. Such a step would have to be approved by Russia and China, permanent members of the UN Security Council that have twice protected Syria from censure.
Syrian opposition groups met in Cairo July 2 and 3 to write a detailed blueprint for transition, an accomplishment that was overshadowed by reports of fisticuffs and infighting. The opposition movement, made up of disparate groups inside and outside Syria, has struggled to establish unity.
The highly publicized discord wasn’t representative of the meeting, said the U.S. official. The document includes plans for managing the military, the economy and the shift in power to a temporary governing body that would draft a constitution and hold elections within a year.
After Paris, Clinton plans to go to Tokyo for a July 8 international conference on Afghanistan. After stops in Mongolia and Vietnam, she will be the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Laos in 57 years. Her stop there is scheduled for July 11.
She plans to attend regional conferences in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia, before visits in Egypt and Israel.