Syria Cease-Fire Unlikely After Cross-Border Attacks

Posted April 10th, 2012 at 2:35 am (UTC-5)
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Tuesday is the deadline for Syrian government troops to begin a cease-fire, but a quick end to the violence looked dim after Syrian forces opened fire across two tense borders the day before.

The violence killed a television cameraman in Lebanon and at least two people at a refugee camp in Turkey.

Activists reported more than 125 people killed since Sunday within Syria as forces loyal to embattled President Bashar al-Assad continue to shell buildings and shoot at residents of rebellious cities.

U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan brokered a deal that was supposed to begin with Syria pulling its troops out of population centers by Tuesday morning, with a full cease-fire by both sides within 48 hours. But hopes for the plan collapsed after the fresh wave of violence and new demands by the government for written guarantees that the opposition will lay down arms first.

Turkish state-run television reported that Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru said Tuesday's deadline for the withdrawal has become “void at this stage.”

The United States and the United Nations condemned Syria's attack on the refugee camp in the border town of Kilis as well as the death of the TV journalist in Lebanon. A State Department spokeswoman said Washington is “not hopeful” Tuesday's cessation of hostilities will take place. But she did not give up hope on Mr. Annan's efforts to end the bloodshed.

The former U.N. secretary-general is due to visit one of the refugee camps in Turkey Tuesday ahead of a visit to Iran later this week aimed at continuing his mediation efforts.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem is in Moscow for talks aimed at persuading Russia to maintain support for Damascus even as hopes for the U.N.-backed peace plan slip away.

Russia has been one of few world powers to offer some support to President Assad in his bloody standoff with protestors but has also backed Mr. Annan's plan to end the violence.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Monday “the deadline has not shifted” and that “Syrian authorities need to implement the promises and the commitments that they have entered into fully and unconditionally.”

Government forces, meanwhile, continued to attack areas in numerous parts of the country Monday, dimming prospects for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict.

The Carnegie Endowment's Sinan Ulgen said Monday's attack on the Turkish refugee camp may help Ankara convince its international partners to shift policy on the Assad government. Turkey has set up camps for Syrians fleeing Mr. Assad's bloody crackdown on a 13-month anti-government uprising.

Also Monday, Human Rights Watch said Syrian forces have summarily executed more than 100 people, mostly civilians, during the past four months, mostly in March. Monday's report said this includes several mass executions in the restive provinces of Homs and Idlib. The New York-based rights group said it only included cases corroborated by witnesses, but has received more reports of similar incidents.

U.N. officials say more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began 13 months ago.