It’s often difficult to discern exactly what is happening Syria because al-Assad has made it difficult if not deadly for foreign journalists to enter the nation. A state TV reporter, Yara Abbas, was killed in Qusayr on Monday, according to Syria state television. She died after “terrorists targeted” a state TV crew near al-Dabaa airport north of the strategic city near Lebanon, where rebels and government forces run supply routes.
In Geneva, Pillay talked about Qusayr.
“I am extremely concerned at current reports suggesting that hundreds of civilians have been killed or injured, and thousands may remain trapped, by indiscriminate shelling and aerial attacks by government forces in Al Qusayr,” Pillay said. Safe passage must be given to any civilians wishing to leave.”
Outside reports indicate rebels continue to fight for the cause that began the unrest: ousting al-Assad and allowing Syrians greater freedom, something akin to the goals of the wider Arab Spring movement.
Those who want al-Assad gone claim that the president has ordered his forces to slay families and indiscriminately shell neighborhoods across the country, which is about the size of Washington state.
Al-Assad says his forces are trying to save the country from “terrorists.”
“These war crimes and crimes against humanity cannot be allowed to go unpunished,” Pillay told delegates from around the world. “We must make it clear to both (the Assad government) and the armed opposition groups that there will be consequences for those responsible. And the world must take action to end this terrible conflict.”
Pillay’s remarks came as U.S. Secretary John Kerry met in Paris with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The two diplomats spoke briefly to reporters Monday before heading off to a private dinner with the French foreign minister.
Kerry expressed concern about any possible use of chemical weapons and the need to determine what is happening on the ground, while Lavrov stressed the situation in Syria isn’t getting any better and that he wants to do everything in his power to stop the bloodshed.
For months during the Syrian war, Russia appeared to be supporting al-Assad.
But that tide may be turning, at least gaining some wiggle room for the Russians to help broker an end to the violence.
U.S. officials want to start talks between the government and groups that want al-Assad gone.
But not everyone involved in Syria wants to engage. The Syrian National Council, based in Istanbul, is part of the main opposition umbrella group and is considered to be composed of hardliners who’ve said they’ll never talk or negotiate with anyone representing the Assad regime.
The group was having meetings over the weekend in Istanbul to consider attending the Geneva conference.
Syrian National Coalition spokesman Louay Safi said the group wants to hear “more clarity about the purpose and the intentions of the Syrian regime.
“So far,” he said, “the signals have been not positive.”
At the start of May, the U.N.’s point man on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, called Lavrov and Kerry’s cooperation to forge a solution to the Syrian conflict “the first hopeful news concerning that unhappy country in a very long time.”
Lavrov told Foreign Policy recently that the United States and Russia have a lot in common. Asked about his “famously contentious relationship” with Bush administration Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Lavrov laughed.
“Well, I don’t engage in comparing my partners,” he said. “John Kerry is a professional. He is pragmatic. And this is a very important quality for a diplomat and especially for a secretary of state.
“He has very good knowledge of things around the world. He has keen interest in moving some of the old problems out of the deadlock.”
Lavrov also was asked about Kerry’s criticism that Russia is still selling weapons to Syria.
“Well, you know on the arms sales, we never, we never tried to hide that we are implementing the contracts which have been signed quite some time ago, long before all this started,” he answered, saying his country has provided Syria with defensive weapons.
“We have been consistent,” he told Foreign Policy. “We have been saying that for us priority No. 1 is to stop the bloodshed and to save lives, and therefore cessation of hostilities and dialogue without any preconditions is the best way to achieve this desired goal.”
While diplomats talked, on Monday at least 35 people were killed in Syria, including two women and two children, according to the opposition group Local Coordination Committees in Syria.
The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.