Diplomats Line Up to Condemn Syria Violence
UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan condemned Thursday's twin bombing in the Syrian capital of Damascus that left at least 55 people dead and 372 wounded.
A statement issued by Annan spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said he "condemns in the strongest possible terms the attacks that took place earlier today in Damascus.
"He is saddened by the loss of life resulting from the two blasts and extends his condolences to the families of the victims. These abhorrent acts are unacceptable and the violence in Syria must stop."
The statement added Annan, the international mediator appointed by the United Nations and Arab League to try to resolve Syria's unrest, "reiterates his call to all parties to adhere to the cessation of violence.
"Any action that serves to escalate tensions and raise the level of violence can only be counter-productive to the interests of all parties."
"The Joint Special Envoy calls on all parties to avoid further bloodshed and to protect civilians. The Syrian people have already suffered too much," it concluded.
The European Union condemned Thursday what it described as "an act of pure terrorism" in Damascus, but stressed that the Syrian peace plan drafted by international envoy Kofi Annan remains "the best way forward."
"The twin bomb attacks ... seem to have targeted a maximum amount of casualties and damage," said Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The US embassy in Beirut – speaking on Syrian affairs since the state department closed its embassy in Damascus earlier this year – also condemned the bombings.
"The United States condemns in the strongest terms the attacks that took place today in Damascus," the U.S. embassy said in statements posted on Twitter.
"The indiscriminate targeting and killing of civilians is reprehensible and unacceptable in any context," it said.
The bombings also prompted the commander of the slowly growing UN observer force in Syria, Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, to appeal for aid in ending the bloodshed in Syria.
On Wednesday a roadside bomb targeting Mood's convoy near Daraa wounded 10 members of his under-strength observer force. Mood, himself, escaped unscathed.
At present, there are 50 out of a slated 300 observers in Syria, leaving the force woefully under strength in a nation of 22.5 million spread over 71,479 square miles of disparate terrain.
Mood's force is supposed to ensure a UN-backed peace-plan brokered by Annan is adhered to by Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels from the Free Syria Army fighting against his autocratic rule.
However, the April 12 ceasefire deadline has been widely disregarded by Assad, whose forces continue to stage deadly punitive raids in dissident and rebel strongholds.
There have also been continuing reports of war crimes in Syria by Assad's forces, including the systemic kidnapping, rape, and torture of dissidents and their families, and mass summary executions.
UN Human Rights officials say at least 9,000 have been killed in the 14-month popular uprising against Assad, most of them civilians targeted by government forces.
However, UN officials officially stopped counting months ago citing difficulty in obtaining accurate reports due to the choas rocking the country.
Independent human rights groups place the current death toll at close to 12,000, most of them civillians, with at least 800 having been killed since the April 12 ceasefire date passed.
Western powers and the Arab League have censured Assad and imposed numerous rounds of sanctions, but the international community has been deadlocked on similar measures at the United Nations.
Russia and China, staunch allies of Assad, have consistently blocked sanctions or military intervention in the United Nations Security Council.
The Obama administration, which has repeatedly issued calls for Assad to step down, has openly said he will remain in power without armed intervention to oust him.
Nonetheless, Washington has ruled out armed intervention by a coalition of concerned states - or arming the rebels - and maintains a strict "sanctions only" policy.