Annan Expects Syrian Response to “Concrete Proposals”

Posted March 13th, 2012 at 5:40 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, says he expects President Bashar al-Assad's government to respond Tuesday to “concrete proposals” he presented to Damascus aimed at resolving the crisis in the country.

The former U.N. chief left Syria Sunday after two days of talks that ended without a settlement.

He spoke Tuesday after a meeting in Ankara with members of the Syrian National Council, the main expatriate opposition group.

Also Tuesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said army defectors ambushed a military checkpoint in northern Idlib province, killing at least 10 Syrian soldiers.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch issued a report saying Syrian forces have places landmines near the country's border with Turkey and Lebanon. The group called the practice “unconscionable” and urged the Syrian army to cease its use of anti-personnel mines.

The United States, Britain and Russia have each called for a halt to the violence in Syria, but the United Nations Security Council remains divided on how to resolve the crisis.

Security Council foreign ministers met Monday in New York, where U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Russia and China to join international efforts to end the violence, which she blamed directly on Mr. Assad's “military machine.”

“There must be a cessation of violence by the Syrian regime first and foremost. Then we can move toward asking others – who will no longer need to defend themselves because we will be in a political process – to end their own counter-violence.”

Her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, agreed that Syrian authorities “bear a huge share of responsibility.” But he insisted that armed elements of the Syrian opposition also are responsible for the crisis, and that the Security Council must act “without imposing any prejudged solutions.”

“Cease-fire is an absolute must and we sincerely hope that the mission headed by Kofi Annan would succeed in developing some ideas which would make it possible for us to agree on how to stop the bloodshed immediately, how to stop the fighting, irrespective of the source of the violence.”

Russia and China have vetoed Security Council resolutions condemning the Syrian government's deadly crackdown on its opponents. They say the resolutions call for interfering in Syria's internal affairs.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Security Council has “failed” in its responsibilities to the Syrian people and that the diplomatic challenge now is to build on areas where the international community agrees.

“It is encouraging that everybody is talking about a political process. Everybody is now talking about humanitarian aid being delivered, about a cessation of violence and everybody on the United Nations Security Council of course is supporting the work of Kofi Annan. So there are now many common elements, but the task of bringing them together in a resolution remains.”

U.N. officials estimate that 7,500 people have died in the year-long violence.