Kofi Annan Begins Syrian Peace Bid
Former UN chief Kofi Annan and other world envoys prepared to launch a diplomatic drive in Damascus on Tuesday as Syrian forces shelled Rastan for the second straight day.
Annan, who has been named special envoy for the United Nations and Arab League, is due in Damascus on Saturday. He will be accompanied by his deputy, former Palestinian Authority foreign minister Nasser Al Qudwa.
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos is expected to visit Damascus from Wednesday to Friday, a week after the Syrian regime denied her initial travel requests.
During Amos' visit she will urge all sides to allow unhindered access for humanitarian relief workers so they can evacuate the wounded and deliver essential supplies.
"Is there something greater than the right to defend oneself and to defend human rights?" she asked, adding that the Syrian people want to defend themselves. "The regime is not wanted by the people," she said,"the regime is insisting on imposing itself by force on the Syrian people."
The International Committee for the Red Cross says it has been unable to delivery relief supplies to the the central city of Homs, where a month of sustained shelling by Syrian forces killed at least 700 civilians.
Israel on Sunday formally offered to send humanitarian relief to Syrian civilians harmed in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown via the ICRC.
“The state of the Jewish people cannot sit idly by while in a neighboring state atrocities are taking place and people are losing everything,” said Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
“Even if Israel cannot intervene in what is being done in a state with which we have no diplomatic ties, we have a moral obligation to at least give humanitarian aid, and to stir the world to act to end the slaughter,” Lieberman declared.
Lieberman's offer came at the estimated civilian death toll in Assad's campaign to quell over a year of protests calling for his ouster topped 7,500.
Annan's bid for peace begins on the same day that US Sen. John McCain called for Western airstrikes in support of the rebel Syrian Free Army.
“The only realistic way to do [oust Assad -ed] so is with foreign airpower,” McCain was quoted as having said. “The United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north, through airstrikes on Assad’s forces.”
He also called on US officials to arm the SFA via the Arab League, a policy to which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is adamantly opposed.