Syria: Annan Holding Out Hope
UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said Tuesday he believed it was too soon to say a UN-backed peace plan he brokered to bring an end to violence in Syria was dead.
“I believe it’s a bit too early to say that the plan has failed, the plan is still on the table,” Annan told reporters in Turkey.
The former UN secretary general's remarks came just hours before the now-past deadline for Syria to implement the ceasefire plan. Annan said Syrian forces had withdrawn from some areas but moved into others not previously targeted.
“It’s a plan we’re all fighting to implement... it’s a plan the Syrians have endorsed and from the comments made by the opposition, they’re also prepared to go along with it if the government meets its commitments to pull the troops out.”
Annan also rejected new demands by government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Over the weekend Syria’s foreign minister said Damascus wanted guarantees from Annan that armed groups attacking its troops would commit to a ceasefire.
“I believe there should be no preconditions for stopping violence. That is something we need to do for the people and for the country concerned,” Annan said.
“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.”
“We still have time between now and the 12th to stop the violence,” he added.
The opposition Syrian National Council said it would provide the written grantees demanded by Assad, but commanders with the rebel Syria Free Army insisted they would only negotiate with international mediators.
Earlier on Tuesday Annan flew by helicopter over the massive refugee camp in Kilis, situated right on the Turkish-Syrian border, where 9,000 Syrians are sheltering and where gunfire from Syria hit Turkish staff and refugees on Monday, drawing a furious response from Ankara.
He later visited one of the first refugee camps to be set up in Turkey last June at Yayladagi, talking with some of those sheltering there.
“To hear their stories, to hear how they came across, how they were shot at, some with their children, was heart-wrenching. But I hope that their courage, strength and patience will pay off soon,” he said.
Meanwhile, Syrian troops killed at least 31 civilians as shelling continued in Homs, and near the Turkish border.
Around 25,000 Syrians have fled the violence and are sheltering in Turkey, with hundreds crossing from Syria daily. A total of ten times that number of Syrians are believed to have been displaced during Assad's 13-month crackdown.
UN Human Rights officials say at least 9,100 civilians have been killed in the ongoing unrest.
However, local opposition activists say that Assad has killed at least 1,000 in the past 8 days and that the number is, in reality, much higher.