Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad "must transfer power and depart Syria," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a news conference in Istanbul Thursday after meeting diplomats from Arab and Western nations, AFP reported.
The meeting was attended by foreign ministers or senior envoys from Britain, France, the European Union, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and 11 other governments. The group agreed on the need for international solidarity and increased sanctions against Assad, as well coordinated aid to the opposition and a plan for authority to be handed over to an interim government.
The future of Syria must include Assad's departure from power and establishment of a democratic government, Clinton stressed. She mentioned the latest reported massacre at Mazraat al-Qabeer, near Hama, saying:
"The regime-sponsored violence that we witnessed again in Hama yesterday is simply unconscionable. Assad has doubled down on his brutality and his duplicity and Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable or certainly democratic until Assad goes."
British Prime Minister David Cameron also condemned on Thursday the "brutal and sickening" killing near Hama.
Speaking in Oslo, Cameron hinted strongly at Assad's supporters, Russia and China, when he said: "If these reports are true, it is yet another absolutely brutal and sickening attack. Frankly, the international community has got to condemn absolutely this regime and President Assad for what he is doing. I think that lots of different countries in the world – countries that sit around the UN Security Council table – have got to sit down today and discuss this issue."
"We need to do much more to isolate Syria, to isolate the regime, to put the pressure on and to demonstrate that the whole world wants to see a political transition from this illegitimate regime and to actually see one that can take care of its people. It really is appalling, what is happening in that country, and I want to see concerted action from the international community."
"China and Russia strongly oppose any attempt to address the Syria crisis with military interference from the outside or forcefully impose a regime change in the insurgency-ridden country," the official Xinhua News Agency reported after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also called for an international meeting to discuss the Syria situation, but said that such a meeting would need to place most of the pressure on the groups opposing Assad, rather than on Assad. According to the Associated Press, he said Iran should be a participant in the get-together.
Clinton rejected this idea. "It's a little hard to imagine inviting a country that is stage-managing the Assad regime's assault on its people," Clinton told reporters.