Syria Accepts Annan Peace Plan

Posted March 27th, 2012 at 6:55 am (UTC-5)
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International peace envoy Kofi Annan says Syria has accepted his plan to end violence in the country.

A spokesman for Mr. Annan said Tuesday Syria's response came in a letter to the U.N.-Arab League envoy.

Mr. Annan met with Chinese officials Tuesday in Beijing, including Premier Wen Jiabao, as China pledged to support his mediation efforts.

The plan calls on Syrian government forces and rebels to agree on a cease-fire and engage in dialogue. The blueprint, endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, does not include a Western and Arab demand for President Bashar al-Assad to resign – a requirement that Russia and China oppose.

U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said Tuesday there is a basic structure in place to discuss with Russia and China what they can do to support Mr. Annan.

“I think we felt like we made some progress with regard to Syria in that, despite the differences that we've had — and they continue with regard to Syria — there is the framework for cooperation through the Kofi Annan initiative which, again, at the very least, provides a framework for stopping the violence, initiating greater humanitarian access to the people of Syria and initiating a transition in that country. Again, we believe very strongly that that transition has to involve Assad leaving power.”

In Istanbul, Syrian opposition groups are meeting in an effort to forge a united front before a major conference April 1.

Opposition member Bassam Jaara said Tuesday the meeting is an important dialogue between different sides of the opposition as they work to revise their structure.

“We want everyone to sign a declaration today produced by the Syrian National Council (SNC). It is a declaration that sets Syria's new identity after the fall of Bashar al-Assad, a Syria that is democratic, plural, civil and guarantees equality to all the Syrian people.”

He said the goal is to agree to a declaration pledging a democratic Syria that guarantees equality to all Syrians.

Western and Arab nations calling themselves the “Friends of Syria” are due to meet Sunday in Istanbul to discuss support for the Syrian opposition's struggle to end decades of autocratic rule.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend the conference after meeting Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and foreign ministers of five Gulf Arab states in Riyadh later this week. The State Department said Clinton's efforts at both gatherings will focus on ending Syria's bloodshed.

In Syria, activists say fighting killed at least eight people across the country Tuesday, including in the Damascus suburb of Douma, the flashpoint city of Homs and northern Idlib province. Their reports could not be independently confirmed because Syria tightly restricts foreign reporting.

Fighting was also reported along Syria's border with Lebanon.

Syria's state news agency SANA said the country's parliament has called on Mr. Assad to consider delaying parliamentary elections scheduled for May 7 in order to allow for the outcome of a “national dialogue.”

The election is part of what the government calls a series of reforms based on a new constitution approved by referendum in February.

The United Nations says more than 8,000 people have been killed in the Syrian government's crackdown on the uprising during the past year. Damascus blames the violence on what it says are foreign-backed terrorists.