Syria risks all-out war in Middle East: Kofi Annan
SYRIAN president Bashar al-Assad was yesterday criticised by special envoy Kofi Annan for failing to comply with a peace plan and was warned that atrocities by his forces risked drawing the entire Middle East into all-out war.
At a meeting with members of the Arab League, Annan, who was also acting on behalf of the United Nations’ in his peace mission to Damascus, gave a bleak assessment of the situation in Syria 15 months on from the start of the anti-Assad uprising.
He conceded that efforts by the UN and Arab League to make a ceasefire take hold had failed and said the prospect of all-out war across the region was growing by the day.
Annan, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former UN secretary-general, said he had told Assad in “very direct and frank terms” when they met in the Syrian capital last Tuesday that he must act to implement all points of the peace plan.
“He must make bold and visible steps immediately to radically change his military posture and honour his commitment to withdraw heavy weapons and cease all violence,” he said.
“What is important is not the words he uses but the action he takes – now.”
The ferocity of the crackdown on the opposition by government forces has appalled the international community. But Annan’s peace plan appears to be the only option on the table, even if it looks increasingly forlorn, as foreign governments are reluctant to intervene militarily and Russia is defending Assad on the diplomatic front.
The massacre last week of more than 100 men, women and children in eastern Houla region, believed by UN monitors to have been the work of pro-Assad militias, fuelled renewed outrage.
Annan said the Houla massacre was a terrible crime. “Worst of all, it is one of many atrocities to have taken place. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are internally displaced. Meanwhile, arbitrary detentions continue, and alongside that, widespread allegations of human rights abuses of all kinds,” he said.
In Syria, opposition activists reported more violence yesterday. Rebels killed six soldiers in the southern province of Deraa and at least eight others in clashes on the outskirts of Damascus, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Observatory also said two civilians were killed yesterday, one during army raids in Damascus and one by gunfire in the city of Homs, the target of a brutal siege in February and March.
Since the conflict started, Assad’s forces have killed 7,500 people, according to the most recent UN tally.
Assad’s government, which portrays the unrest as the work of foreign-backed terrorists, claims that more than 2,600 soldiers or security agents have been killed.
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