(PARIS) — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on countries around the world on Friday to demand that Russia and China end their support of Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.
“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,” she said before representatives of more than 100 countries attending a meeting of the “Friends of the Syrian People” in Paris.
“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,” Clinton continued.
To date, the conflict between Assad’s government and rebel forces has cost, by some estimates, more than 15,000 lives since it began in March 2011.
Speaking at Friday’s meeting, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the Syrian government’s use of force and indiscriminate shelling of heavily populated areas amounts to “crimes against humanity.”
“Syria is on the brink of a civil war as we’ve all been hearing today. And I think the clear message to the international community and to this meeting is that we must all speak with one voice to bring this violence to an end,” the spokesman said.
To that end, Clinton also urged more countries to impose and enforce sanctions against Syria.
“Syria’s currencies and foreign reserves have collapsed. Sanctions on oil alone have deprived Assad of billions of dollars in lost revenues and his ability to finance his war grows more difficult by the day,” she said. “What’s keeping him afloat is money from Iran and assistance from Russia and the failure of countries represented here to tighten and enforce sanctions.”
Clinton noted that if the situation worsens in Syria, there could be serious repercussions felt elsewhere.
“Although the stakes for the Syrian people are literally life and death they are also significant for the entire world. Because if Syria spirals further into civil war not only will more civilians die, more refugees will stream across the borders, but instability will spread far beyond Syria,” she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Tim Hume, CNN Newswire
Roshni Majumdar and Deborah Bloom, CNN Newswire