June 5, 2012
June 5, 2012
U.N. envoy Kofi Annan will hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington Friday as the international community tries to find a way to end the bloodshed in Syria, as violent crackdown claimed more lives across the country.
On the ground, as many as 42 people have been killed by the fire of Syrian forces, mostly in Idlib and Homs, Al Arabiya reported citing activists at the Local Coordination Committees.
In Deir Ezzor, the government deployed helicopters to strafe suspected rebel hideouts in farmland in the Sbeikhan district and one was hit by rebel fire, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“There’s actually quite a lot going on with Syria this week in terms of international efforts,” State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said Monday, as he dismissed a weekend speech by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as “out of touch with reality.”
Clinton will attend a meeting in Istanbul on Thursday to discuss the unrelenting violence in Syria which has dragged on since March 2011, and will then meet with Annan in Washington on Friday.
It was not yet clear whether Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, would also meet with U.S. President Barack Obama, according to AFP.
Annan, due to brief the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly on Thursday, urged major powers to ensure his peace plan was implemented by both sides as it was the “only option on the table.” Russia has blunted Western efforts to condemn Assad and push him from power.
“The fact of the matter is … the international community needs to come together and unify around the idea that a political transition must happen sooner rather than later in Syria,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
“We support the Annan plan and we have even though we’ve remained extremely skeptical, with good reason, about Assad’s willingness to comply with it.”
Seeking to shore up the plan, Clinton spoke Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “about bringing more pressure to bear on Assad, on the regime to comply with all six aspects or components of the Annan plan, including a democratic or political transition,” Toner told journalists.
She told her Russian counterpart that Moscow, a key ally of Syria, had a “very significant role to play in trying to persuade Assad, using their influence… that the Annan plan offers the best way forward.”
Toner also said that a sanctions group, led by Washington, was to meet this week to look at ways to “tighten, strengthen, better coordinate sanctions” on the Syrian regime.
“But that’s not where we’re stopping. We’re obviously going to continue our work both within the U.N. Security Council and with the Friends of the Syrian People to continue the political and economic pressure,” he said.
“So, you know, this is a multi-front battle, if you will, to keep pressure up on Assad.”
In talks in Saint Petersburg on Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said the EU and Russia “might have some divergent assessments” of the situation in Syria.
But he said they agreed that implementing the troubled peace plan brokered by Annan was the only way forward in a situation that risks developing into full-scale civil war.
Van Rompuy said the EU and Russia fully agreed that the Annan plan provided the “best opportunity to break the cycle of violence in Syria, avoiding a civil war and finding a peaceful, lasting solution.”
The May 25 massacre of at least 108 people, nearly half of them children, in al-Houla area of Homs province dealt a possibly fatal blow to Annan’s proposed ceasefire, which was supposed to take effect on April 12 but never did.
The latest violence and a defiant speech by Assad on Sunday raised questions about how long Annan can pursue his threadbare peace plan on behalf of the United Nations and the Arab League.
But U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Reuters Annan’s mission “remains central” to resolving the Syrian crisis. Annan has inserted 300 U.N. observers into Syria to verify the non-existent truce.
Annan himself “feels that perhaps the time has come, or is approaching, when the international community has to review … the crisis in Syria and decide what needs to be done to ensure implementation of the six-point plan,” his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told Reuters Television in Geneva.
“(Annan) and many others have warned of Syria descending into a bloody, protracted sectarian civil war. We may be there already,” said Fawzi.
Syrian rebels said on Monday they were no longer bound by a U.N.-backed truce because Assad had failed to observe their Friday deadline to implement the ceasefire.
“We have decided to end our commitment to this (ceasefire),” said Free Syrian Army spokesman Major Sami al-Kurdi, according to Reuters. “We have resumed our attacks but we are doing defensive attacks which means we are only attacking checkpoints in the cities.”
Kurdi said a U.N. observer mission in Syria should be turned into a “peace-enforcing mission,” or that the world should impose a no-fly zone and a buffer zone to help bring Assad down.
Such ideas have gained little traction previously with Western powers, let alone their Russian and Chinese critics.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi is to head to the United Nations later this week to press for swifter implementation of the Annan plan, a League official said, according to AFP.
As many as 2,400 of the more than 13,500 people killed since the uprising began have died since the U.N.-backed ceasefire was supposed to come into force on April 12, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
Source: Alarabiya with agencies