In an initial sign that Assad might be listening, the Syrian Red Crescent reported Friday that it was being allowed to evacuate wounded women and children from the most devastated neighborhoods of Homs, a city under relentless bombardment by government forces over recent weeks.
The “Friends” meeting also endorsed the concept of a joint Arab League-United Nations peacekeeping force that would enter Syria, presumably once Assad left power, and secure the country during a democratic transition process.
The meeting suffered from the glaring absence of Russia and China. Their joint veto of UN Security Council action on Syria earlier this month continues to limit the possibilities and effectiveness of international intervention. Some countries lay responsibility for Syria’s mounting violence and death toll at Russia’s feet, with France in particular declaring that Assad has interpreted the veto as “a license to kill.”
What happened on the margins of the "Friends" meeting was, in some ways, as important to Syria’s future as what in the general sessions. British Foreign Minister William Hague announced his country’s recognition of the Syrian National Council, the opposition umbrella group, before he met with the council’s president, Burhan Ghalioun. Secretary Clinton also met with Mr. Ghalioun.