Diplomatic expulsions may hurt Annan plan

2012-05-30 20:26

Damascus - Syrian newspapers suggested on Wednesday that the Western expulsion of Damascus diplomats could jeopardise Kofi Annan's peace plan, but also accused the UN-Arab League envoy of being one-sided.

Several Western states expelled top Syrian envoys on Tuesday, in a wave of protest over the weekend massacre of at least 108 civilians around the town of Houla.

The ruling party's Al-Baath newspaper criticised the expulsions "while Kofi Annan was in Damascus, looking for ways for his [peace] plan to succeed."

The expulsions were "obviously and suspiciously enough, a blow to the heart of Annan's efforts... to make it seem like the time of military confrontation has come, and to suggest that war has become inevitable".

Meanwhile, Al-Baath accused French President Francois Hollande of "waving the flag of war, sacrificing France's foreign policy in its entirety in order to please Israel, under the influence of Qatari dollars".

Former president Nicolas "Sarkozy has not gone, and neither has [Britain's former premier Tony] Blair, because the colonial spirit remains as strong as ever."

On Tuesday, Hollande had said he did not rule out military intervention in Syria, provided it were approved by the UN Security Council.

Annan wrapped up on Tuesday a two-day visit to Damascus during which he held talks with President Bashar al-Assad.

"We are at a tipping point," he said after the talks, aimed at rescuing his troubled peace blueprint.

Annan biased

He urged the government and all government-backed militias to stop all military operations and show maximum restraint.

"The Syrian people do not want the future to be one of bloodshed and division. Yet the killings continue and the abuses are still with us today," the former UN chief said.

"I appealed to [Assad] for bold steps now - not tomorrow, now - to create momentum for the implementation of the plan.

That prompted criticism from pro-regime daily Al-Watan, which said Annan had failed in his meeting with Assad "to condemn any of the states that fund, arm and harbour [rebel] fighters in Syria" save for "diplomatic references in passing."

Annan's mission, the newspaper added, seems to "focus its demands on the Syrian people alone, pushing them to withdraw their military and their troops, while opening the road for militias to commit more crime, kidnappings and killings."

The paper also suggested that the UN observer mission in Syria was cause for concern.

"Four members of staff of the UN observers mission in Syria, whose purpose was allegedly to help end violence in the country, helped a foreign spy to escape in their car... during their visit to [central] Homs in early May."

The newspaper said the information was "difficult to verify" because the observers "maintain complete silence before the media and refuse to allow journalists to accompany them to many of the sites they visit, where armed men do not allow the media in."

Read more on:    un  |  kofi annan  |  bashar al-assad  |  syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings

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