Annan sees hope to salvage Syria peace plan

2012-04-11 13:06

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said there was still hope to salvage his tottering peace plan for Syria, while warning that Arab proposals to arm the rebels would be “disastrous”.

Speaking at a news conference in Tehran – the capital of Syria’s principal ally Iran – Annan said that if both sides in the Syrian conflict respected his plan, “I think by six o’clock on Thursday the 12th ... we a should see a much improved situation on the ground.”

He said that a proposal by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to give weapons to outgunned Syrian rebels would worsen matters.

“I’ve always said the militarisation of the conflict will be disastrous,” he said.

He stressed that a new conflict could not be tolerated in the Middle East.

Annan’s visit to Iran was seen as an appeal to the Islamic republic’s influence over Syria as the clock ticked down to the deadline of 6:00 am Damascus time (0300 GMT) tomorrow, by which time all combat is meant to cease.

Prospects of Annan’s plan succeeding, though, were dealt a blow yesterday when the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad failed to fulfill a commitment to withdraw forces from populated areas.

Annan accused Damascus of moving its troops from some areas and moving them elsewhere during a visit he made yesterday to Turkey, an erstwhile Syrian ally now seeking Assad’s resignation.

World powers worried the peace plan could be capsising were expected to discuss the conflict today in a G8 foreign ministers’ meeting in Washington.

Pressure is also building on the UN Security Council to act to impose conditions to end the bloodshed in Syria that has cost more than 9 000 lives according to a UN estimate.

Annan today said Assad’s government had given “further clarifications” over how it views its obligations under the peace plan.

“What they mean and want is an assurance that the other forces, the opposition forces, would also stop the fighting so that we could see cessation of all the violence,” he said.

Annan said his team has “had positive answers from them” and that “governments with influence” had also been approached to ensure that all sides in the conflict respect the ceasefire.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, speaking next to Annan at the joint news conference, said: “We told Mr Annan that as long as the peace plan continues its approach, Iran will support it.”

Salehi reiterated that “any change that is to occur in Syria should be done by the Syrian government,” and voiced support for reforms Assad has promised to bring in for democratic elections and changes to Syria’s constitution.

Annan called his discussions with Salehi on Syria “constructive” and hailed Iran’s endorsement of his six-point plan.

“What is important all governments in the region should work together. This is a region that has seen many conflicts and shocks,” Annan said.

“It is extremely important to find an agreement and end the violence that is going in Syria right now.”

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