May 19, 2013
'Friends of Syria' to demand ceasefire, aid access
Western and Arab nations will demand that Syrian forces implement an immediate ceasefire to allow relief supplies to reach desperate civilians in bombarded cities such as Homs when they meet in Tunis tomorrow.
Piling pressure on President Bashar al-Assad, UN investigators accused his security apparatus of crimes against humanity as world outrage mounted over violence that has cost thousands of lives during an almost year-long popular uprising against his 11-year rule.
The "Friends of Syria" meeting will call on Syrian forces to stop firing to give international aid groups access to areas worst hit by the violence which are running out of medicine and food, according to a draft declaration.
The draft also "recognised the Syrian National Council as a legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change", a phrase which appeared to fall short of full endorsement of the most prominent group opposed to Assad.
About 70 nations, including the United States, Turkey, and European and Arab countries that want Assad to step down, will take part in the talks, but Russia and China, which have jointly vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, say they will stay away.
The Syrian National Council is allied with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), made up mostly of army deserters fighting security forces that have sought to crush protests against Assad, whose minority Alawite sect dominates Sunni-majority Syria.
Syrian security forces lined up and shot dead 13 men and boys from one extended family, which has the same name as the FSA's commander Riad al-Asaad, in the village of Kfartoun in Hama province today, activists in Hama city said.
It was not immediately clear if the victims were related to Asaad, who is based in Turkey and comes from the northwestern province of Idlib.
Activists said three people were also killed in shelling of the nearby village of Soubin. The bodies of five Syrian workers who disappeared two days ago after crossing from Lebanon on their way to Hama were found on Thursday, they said. Two people were killed by troops at a checkpoint inside the city.