Syria the focus of attention in Paphos, Vladivostok | News | DW | 08.09.2012
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Syria the focus of attention in Paphos, Vladivostok

Syria dominated talks at two separate international conferences on Saturday. EU foreign ministers agreed on the need to beef up sanctions, but the US and Russia were unable to resolve their differences over Syria.

The foreign minister of Cyprus emerged from an informal meeting of her counterparts from the rest of the European Union to say that they had agreed on the need to step up sanctions against the regime of Bashar Assad.

Erato Kozakou-Markoullis told reporters in Paphos that there was also a consensus on the need to massively increase humanitarian aid to Syria.

"There still is a huge difference between the sanctions against Iran and those against Syria - so there is room to further tighten with Syria, to apply even more pressure to the regime," Luxembourg's foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, said.

"We have strong sanctions against Iran. Why wouldn't there be just as strong sanctions against the clan of Bashar al-Assad?" French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius added.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle warned that the ongoing bloodshed in Syria threatened to spread beyond the country's borders.

"I am very worried … that this could turn into a real brushfire," Westerwelle said.

Westerwelle also pledged Germany's support for those in need should there be a further escalation of the conflict.

"It goes without saying that Germany would be prepared, as all Europeans would be prepared, to take in refugees, if such a situation develops," Westerwelle said. "At the moment, though, it makes more sense and it is our priority to help refugees in the field."

He also called on Russia and China to "finally withdraw their protective hand" from the Assad clan - a reference to the fact that Moscow and Beijing have used their vetoes on the United Nations Security Council to block three separate resolutions on Syria.

Lavrov, Clinton agree to disagree

Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov also held talks about Syria on Saturday – with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vladivostok. 

Following their meeting, it was clear that the two made little progress towards reaching a consensus on how to proceed on Syria.

Lavrov rejected Western calls for economic sanctions, saying they "will not bring about anything."

He did say, however, that Russia would seek Security Council support for a peace plan agreed by world powers at a meeting in Geneva in June. 

A senior US official said that while Clinton said she was open to seeking Security Council approval for the Geneva plan, any resolution must carry consequences if Assad failed to comply.

pfd/tj (AFP, Reuters, DAPD, dpa)