Tuesday 10 April 2012

[Comment: Kofi Annan is enabling Syria to show itself to the world, challenging those who defend al-Assad and seeking wide consensus for a way forward. He needs everyone’s support at this time. Violence is creating more violence, not a lasting solution].

Syria’s Phase of Radicalisation – International Crisis Group www.crisisgroup.org With the Syrian crisis having taken a perilous turn, predictable obstacles in implementing UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan should not lead to give up on what – for now at least – remains the only serious option on the table.

UN-Arab League envoy presses for ceasefire in SyriaThe Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, today urged the Syrian Government and opposition forces to stop the violence, stressing that all hostilities must end by Thursday morning.

“We still have time between now and the 12th to stop the violence and I appeal to all concerned, the Government in the first place, and the opposition forces,” Mr. Annan said at a press conference in Turkey.

Last week, the Syrian Government told Mr. Annan that it would complete the withdrawal of troops by 10 April. The Envoy has stated that, once that happens, all parties should move immediately to cease all forms of violence, so that a complete cessation is in place by 06:00 Damascus time on 12 April.

A UN team visited the country in recent days to start technical preparations for the potential deployment of observers to monitor a cessation of armed violence and the full implementation of Mr. Annan’s six-point peace plan.

Mr. Annan reiterated his conviction that his plan, which was submitted last month during his visit to Damascus, can still be implemented.

“I believe it’s a bit too early to say that the plan has failed,” Mr. Annan said. “The plan is still on the table and it’s a plan we are all fighting to implement. It’s a plan the Council has endorsed, a plan the Syrians have endorsed, and from the comments made by the opposition they are also prepared to go along with it if the Government meets its commitments to pull the troops out. So the plan is very much alive.”

Mr. Annan said he would submit a report to the Security Council today sharing the information he has received from the Syrian Government on troop withdrawals, and stated that there have been indications of the Government withdrawing in various cities.

However, he expressed concern over reports from other sources indicating that there have been military movements to other areas which have not previously been targeted.

The Council met today behind closed doors to discuss a letter received from Mr. Annan regarding the status of his plan. Ambassador Susan Rice of the United States, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for April, told reporters afterwards that members underscored elements of the letter, including the need for the Syrian leadership to seize the opportunity to make a fundamental change of course.

“It’s essential that the next 48 hours bring visible signs of immediate and indisputable change in the military posture of the Government forces throughout the country, as called upon by the six-point plan,” she stated.

Council members also echoed Mr. Annan’s call to urge the opposition to also fulfil their commitments to the six-point plan and “give no excuse for the Government to renege on its commitment.” The 15-member body is slated to receive an update from Mr. Annan on Thursday.

While in Turkey today, the Joint Special Envoy also visited a camp for Syrian refugees before leaving for consultations in Iran. He described the stories he heard from the refugees as “heart-wrenching” and stressed the need to create the conditions for them to return home sooner rather than later.

“There is no more time to lose. We must all push for an end to the bloodshed before Syria plunges into the abyss,” he said in a statement issued in Hatay.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today it is sending a team to provide technical assistance to nine camps on the border between Turkey and Syria, which have so far been run by Turkish authorities.

UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told a news briefing in Geneva that a plane with 1,600 tents and 1,400 blankets was sent to Turkey today, and stressed that the agency is working closely with the Turkish Red Crescent and Turkish authorities to ensure the supplies are distributed locally.

He added that the agency has received reports concerning attacks in refugee camps in Turkey, but stated that details are still unclear and it will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Currently, there are 24,564 registered Syrian refugees in Turkey; 10,112 in Lebanon; 7,021 in Jordan; and 792 in Iraq.

Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre: Summary (10/04/2012): At least 101 martyrs have falllen today including 37 bodies – among them men, women and children – found in a mass grave in Dayr Ba’labah in Homs, an area where mass executions have been reported in the last few days. The regime’s forces showed what they think of Annan’s plan by launching new attacks in Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Daraa provinces and continued the assault in Homs. Martyrs also fell in Damascus and Deir Ezzor. More than 1,000 martyrs have fallen since the start of the month. Google map Tuesday 10/4/2012

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  21:01 The UN Security Council on Tuesday called on President Bashar al-Assad to keep a Thursday deadline for a complete ceasefire in the Syria conflict.
 20:24 Diplomatic efforts to halt Syria’s bloodshed have “failed” and the world must send military aid to rebels to stop further slaughter, US Senator John McCain said Tuesday at a refugee camp in Turkey.
 20:17 UN and Arab League special envoy on Syria Kofi Annan arrived in Iran on Tuesday for talks centering on the Islamic republic’s key regional ally, the official IRNA news agency reported.
 19:50 International envoy Kofi Annan told the UN on Tuesday that Syria has not a “signal of peace,” AFP reported.
 19:04 Twenty-eight civilians were among the 52 people killed Tuesday across Syria, an NGO told AFP.
 18:55 European envoys said Tuesday that Syria has failed to comply with special envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan and that international measures must be studied.
 18:45 At least three senior Syrian generals were killed in the early months of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s attempts to put down an uprising, according to a government toll sent to the United Nations.
 18:18 Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has failed to send the required “signal of peace,” UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.
 17:41 The United States said Tuesday it hoped the United Nations Security Council would consider action if UN envoy Kofi Annan concludes Syria’s government broke troop withdrawal commitments.
 17:05 Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem informed Russia in talks on Tuesday that some Syrian troops deployed in the protest city of Homs have been pulled back in line with the Kofi Annan peace plan, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
 16:48 The Free Syrian Army will resume attacks on forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad if the regime does not stop shelling and pull troops out of protest hubs as promised, its spokesperson warned Tuesday.
 15:53 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Saudi Arabia on Friday for talks on the crisis in Syria, according to the Anatolia news agency.
 15:30 The opposition Syrian National Council said on Tuesday that new conditions set by the Damascus regime for it to comply with a UN-backed peace plan were “unacceptable.”
 15:01 British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday accused the Syrian regime of intensifying its crackdown instead of following the commitments it made to international envoy Kofi Annan.
 14:46 Rockets launched by the Syrian army fell near a camp for Syrian refugees in Turkey, Al-Arabiya television reported on Tuesday.
 14:45 Syrian forces on Tuesday killed 34 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
 14:42 France said on Tuesday that Syria was not implementing a UN and Arab League-backed peace plan after Damascus said it had started pulling troops out of certain provinces.
 14:32 Deadly violence on Monday killed 17 people across Syria, including at least seven civilians, on the day the government is expected to pull out from protest hubs as per a UN-Arab League peace plan, monitors said.
 Syria accused Turkey on Tuesday of arming militants and helping rebels to cross border, AFP reported.
 12:02 UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan – who arrived in Turkey to visit Syrian refugees – will send a letter to the Security Council Tuesday on Syria, where a deadline for the military to withdraw from urban areas has expired, his spokesperson said.
 12:00 The Syrian army raided the Edleb town of Ariha, activists told Al-Arabiya TV.
 11:51 Syrian forces on Tuesday used a helicopter to shell the Nahliya village in Edleb, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Sham News Network as saying.
 11:32 Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told Moscow on Tuesday that Damascus has started fulfilling the peace plan of envoy Kofi Annan but Russia said the regime should be more decisive in implementing the initiative.
 10:58 Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will cut short an official China visit and fly home Tuesday after Syrian forces fired shots into a refugee camp across the border, a report said.
 10:57 Unidentified gunmen killed six Syrian soldiers in the northeastern province of Hassakeh on Tuesday, monitors said, on the day a UN-Arab peace plan is due to start taking effect.
 10:35 China expressed concern Tuesday over shots fired from Syria into a refugee camp in Turkey, an action Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called a “clear violation” of the border.
 9:24 Syrian forces shelled an Aleppo village on the day UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan takes effect, AFP reported activists as saying.
 8:48 Shots fired from Syria at a Syrian refugee camp inside Turkey are a “clear violation” of the common border between the two countries, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday.
 7:45 Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was in Moscow Tuesday for talks in a bid to persuade Russia to maintain support for the Damascus regime even as hopes for a UN-backed peace plan slipped away.
 7:15 The Saudi government on Monday condemned the Syrian regime’s “dangerous escalation” in attacks across the country and called for support of the new president in neighboring Yemen.
 7:13 A woman protester outside the Syrian parliament appealing for an end to killings of civilians has been arrested, a prominent humans right lawyer and an activist said on Monday.
 7:10 Syria faced a deadline Tuesday to withdraw its forces from urban areas as Washington said Damascus had shown no sign of complying with a peace deal amid fierce clashes that killed more than 100.

Reuters: In Syria, killing goes on despite Annan plan

Syrian troops killed 31 people on Tuesday, pursuing a fierce assault on President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents instead of silencing their big guns and leaving towns as promised under a fraying international peace plan.

United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said it was “a bit too early” to dismiss as a failure his attempt to halt 13 months of conflict and, in a letter to world powers in the U.N. Security Council, said Assad must make a “fundamental change of course” and adhere to a ceasefire due to begin on Thursday.

“The plan is still on the table,” he told a news conference in Turkey after visiting Syrian refugee camps and before flying on to Iran, a key sponsor of the Assad family’s 42-year rule.

The former U.N. chief’s plan, which calls for Syrian troops to pull back by the end of the day on Tuesday, won backing from Assad’s friends in Russia and China, as well as from Western, Arab and other nations struggling to find a way to deflect the Syrian leader from his bloody crackdown on a popular uprising.

Annan said he had information the Syrian military was withdrawing from some areas but moving to others not previously targeted. He appealed to all sides to stop violence and to set no conditions for a ceasefire due to start at dawn on Thursday.

“I had hoped that by now we would have been much further ahead along the road to the government of Syria honoring its commitments and all the parties beginning to take steps to end all violence,” he said, reiterating Thursday’s deadline. “We still have time between now and the 12th to stop the violence.”

In a letter to the Security Council, obtained by Reuters, Annan wrote: “The Syrian leadership should now seize the opportunity to make a fundamental change of course.

“It is essential that the next 48 hours bring visible signs of immediate and indisputable change in the military posture of the government forces throughout the country,” he said, adding that the opposition also should cease fighting in order to “give no excuse for the government to renege on its commitments”.

Shelling of restive parts of Homs killed at least 26 people on Tuesday and five died in violence elsewhere, opposition groups said, but there was no sign of a military pullout, with tanks still in cities such as Homs and Hama.

Opposition activists say hundreds of Syrians have been killed since Assad accepted Annan’s proposals on March 27.

Citing satellite images, a French foreign ministry spokesman endorsed that view and denounced a Syrian assurance that troops were, in fact, withdrawing as a “blatant lie”.

The White House also saw no sign of a pullback: “Leaders of the Assad regime … make a lot of promises,” spokesman Jay Carney said. “Those promises overwhelmingly turn out to be empty.”

Nor did rebels immediately stop shooting. The anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said insurgents killed six soldiers in attacks on checkpoints on an eastern desert road.

State media reported the funerals of 33 security personnel on Tuesday, bringing to 58 the number it has said have been killed in two days. Syrian government media curbs make it hard to assess conflicting reports from inside the country.


As the end-of-day deadline loomed for Damascus to implement a withdrawal, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem demanded guarantees from Annan that rebels would also honor any truce.

“We will not ask the terrorist groups, which are killing, kidnapping and destroying infrastructure, for guarantees. We want Annan to give us these guarantees,” Moualem said in Moscow.

The last-minute demand, a variant of one Syria made at the weekend, is not mentioned in Annan’s proposals and looked designed to complicate his struggle to get all parties to comply with a six-point plan that is so far largely a dead letter.

The rebel Free Syrian Army will fight on if Assad fails to withdraw troops and tanks from in and around cities as required, a spokesman, Colonel Qassem Saad al-Deen, told Reuters.

The opposition Syrian National Council said Syrian forces were not complying and that world powers should impose an arms embargo among other measures if the peace plan failed.

“More time means more blood,” Council spokeswoman Basma Kodmani told reporters in Geneva. “It is urgent to end the regime’s repression and the regime itself.”

China, which along with Russia has blocked punitive U.N. Security Council action against Syria, said it hoped all sides would immediately obey the U.N.-backed ceasefire, aimed at stopping the uprising from sliding into full-scale civil war.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had told Moualem that Syria could be “more active, more decisive” in meeting the terms of Annan’s plan, but he also urged foreign states to lean on opposition groups to stop shooting forthwith.

Moualem said some troops had already pulled back from cities in line with the peace plan, but he tied a full ceasefire to the entry of foreign monitors, another apparently new condition.

“An end of violence must be simultaneous with the arrival of the international observers,” he said, adding that Syria wants a say in how the ceasefire monitoring team is composed.

The U.N. peacekeeping department sent an advance team to Damascus last week to discuss how to carry out Annan’s plan for “an effective United Nations supervision mechanism”.

An Arab League monitoring effort collapsed in January as intensifying violence made a mockery of an Arab ceasefire plan.

Assad’s forces have killed more than 9,000 people in the past year, according to a U.N. estimate. Damascus says rebels have killed more than 2,500 soldiers and security personnel.

Lavrov asked Annan by telephone to step up efforts to ensure that the Syrian opposition adhere to his ceasefire plan, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

It said Moualem had told Lavrov some government forces had withdrawn from Homs to their bases.


The violence has alarmed Syria’s neighbors, especially Turkey which already hosts almost 25,000 Syrian refugees. At least five people, including two Turkish citizens, were wounded by cross-border fire into a refugee camp in Turkey on Monday.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused Assad of personal responsibility for killing civilians and threatened an unspecified response to the cross-border shooting.

“He is continuing to kill 60, 70, 80, 100 every day,” Erdogan said during a visit to Beijing. Assad’s troops were “mercilessly” shooting fleeing women and children in the back.

NATO member Turkey has floated the option of carving out a “buffer zone” inside Syria to protect civilians, providing the U.N. Security Council authorized a move that could set up a confrontation between Assad’s forces and the Turkish military.

Failure to end the violence would highlight the diplomatic stalemate pitting Assad’s Western and Arab critics against his friends in Russia, China and Iran. They all call for calm but differ sharply on how to achieve this or on any political transition that could satisfy the antagonists in Syria.

Moscow and Beijing both mistrust what they see as a Western drive for U.N. intervention in member states on the basis of a “right to protect” civilians that was invoked for Libya last year, when NATO airpower helped topple Muammar Gaddafi.

Western powers say they will not meddle militarily in Syria, but will pile pressure on Assad if he fails to halt bloodshed.

France will host a meeting next week aimed at tightening sanctions on Syria and Britain proposed returning to the Security Council for a response if Annan’s plan fails.

Foreign Secretary William Hague also said on Tuesday Britain would intensify support for the opposition and seek to get the Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.

(Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Jonathon Burch in Antakya, Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Jonathon Burch in Turkey, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Adrian Croft in London, Steve Gutterman in Moscow, Dominic EvansDouglas HamiltonMariam Karouny and Erika Solomon in Beirut and Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

11:38am EDT U.S. says no evidence so far of Syrian army pullback

3:58pm EDT Annan urges U.N. council to push for Syria truce by Thursday 

Kofi Annan: “I believe there should be no preconditions for stopping violence”

The Syrian government has failed to send a “powerful political signal of peace”, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has told the UN Security Council.

The Syrian army continued operations in population centres despite an agreement to pull out troops by Tuesday, he said.

Syrian opposition activists said at least 60 people were killed as the army shelled a number of towns.

Despite the clashes, Mr Annan said his peace plan was still alive as he urged both sides to stop fighting.

“The days before 10 April should have been an opportunity for the government of Syria to send a powerful political signal of peace, with action on all aspects of the six-point plan,” he wrote in a report to the Security Council.

“I am gravely concerned at the course of events.”

‘Give no excuse’Under his plan, sponsored by the UN and the Arab League, Syrian troops were to have completed their withdrawal from population centres and stopped the use of heavy weaponry by Tuesday, ahead of a full ceasefire coming into place on Thursday morning.

Damascus had agreed to the deadline, but on Sunday demanded written guarantees first that its opponents would give up arms, along with a promise from foreign states not to fund them.

Mr Annan told the Security Council that this new demand put the cessation of violence at risk.

Shelling was reported in several cities on Tuesday, including Homs, a centre of resistance to the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the rebellion broke out in March last year.

At least 28 people were killed there, said the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), an activist network.

The LCC said 20 people were killed in Hama, while there were further deaths in Aleppo and Idlib in the north, Deraa in the south and in a Damascus suburb.

Mr Annan said there was still a chance to salvage the peace plan.

“It is essential that the next 48 hours bring visible signs of immediate and indisputable change in the military posture of the government forces throughout the country,” he told the Security Council.

He added that the opposition should also stop fighting in order to “give no excuse for the government to renege on its commitments”.

The Security Council was in agreement with Kofi Annan that the Thursday deadline must be adhered to, said the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice – who is president of the council this month.

“Members of the council are unified in their grave concern that this deadline has passed and the violence has not only continued but over the last 10 days has intensified,” she said.

Video grab purporting to show government tanks in Homs, Syria (9 April 2012)

She said the council faced a “moment of truth coming up” when it would have to decide whether to increase pressure on the Syrian government.

Permanent members Russia and China, who hold vetoes over council decisions, have prevented resolutions condemning Damascus but have backed Mr Annan’s peace plan.

Russia is one of Syria’s closest allies.

‘Terrorist gangs’Speaking earlier in Turkey, after visiting a camp for Syrian refugees, Mr Annan said it was too early to say his plan had failed.

“It is a plan the [UN Security] Council has endorsed. It’s a plan the Syrians have endorsed and from the comments made by the opposition, they are also prepared to go along with it if the government meets its commitments to pull the troops out. So I think the plan is very much alive.”

Speaking in Moscow, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said the withdrawal had begun in some areas, but that the ceasefire should be timed to the arrival of international monitors – something Mr Annan said he was working towards.

But Mr Muallem said that “despite all these positive measures we noticed on a daily basis the escalation of opposition by the armed terrorist gangs”.

Syrian opposition representatives have said they are committed to the peace plan but that if government troops did not stop firing by Thursday, they would intensify their own operations.

The Russian foreign ministry said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had urged Mr Annan in a telephone call to put pressure on countries backing the Syrian opposition to make sure they stuck to the ceasefire plan.

Earlier he said the Syrian government “could have been more active and decisive” in implementing the plan, but that Mr Muallem had assured him Damascus was committed to it.

Annan’s six-point peace plan:

1. Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people

2. UN-supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians

3. All parties to ensure provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and implement a daily two-hour humanitarian pause

4. Authorities to intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons

5. Authorities to ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists

6. Authorities to respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully

Guardian: Syrian ceasefire plan still alive, says Kofi Annan after deadline passes: 10 Apr 2012: UN-Arab League envoy urges end to violence by early Thursday, as opposition group says 1,000 dead in last eight days …

Syria: Annan pushes ceasefire deadline back two days

• Government attacks continue as first deadline passes
• Annan sees “surge of violence” in recent days
• “No indication” of government move to join truce

Read the latest summary

Syrian ceasefire plan still alive, says Kofi Annan after deadline passes: 10 Apr 2012: UN-Arab League envoy urges end to violence by early Thursday, as opposition group says 1,000 dead in last eight days

Syrian rebels run low on food and hope:

Baba Amr district of HomsSnipers, shelling and decomposing bodies; Two activists tell of life on the streets of Homs despite the UN-brokered ceasefire