Syria revolt enters 2nd year

2012-03-15 13:02

Damascus - Syria's deadly revolt entered a second year on Thursday with the regime smashing rebel bastions and peace envoy Kofi Annan awaiting answers from Damascus before the United Nations re-enters the fray.

President Bashar Assad's camp and the opposition both called for huge demonstrations to mark the day, after troops on Wednesday killed 20 people in Daraa, birthplace of the Arab Spring's longest-running conflict, monitors said.

UN-Arab League mediator Annan, meanwhile, urged Assad to speed up efforts to end the bloodletting in Syria.

The former UN chief had received the president's response to "concrete proposals" he submitted to the Syrian leader in Damascus last weekend but had more "questions and is seeking answers".

"Given the grave and tragic situation on the ground, everyone must realise that time is of the essence. As he said in the region, this crisis cannot be allowed to drag on," his spokesperson added.

In Damascus, a foreign ministry spokesperson said only that the authorities were "committed to co-operating in a positive manner with Annan's mission so long as there is goodwill to help Syria".


Annan is to brief the UN Security Council on his mission by videoconference from Geneva on Friday, diplomats in New York said.

One diplomat, briefed on the answers already sent to Annan, said on condition of anonymity: "We had always expected there would be obfuscation, there would be delay, there would be questions."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the Security Council should adopt a resolution "immediately" demanding an end to the violence, saying it could change Assad's "political psychology".

"If he thinks he can weather this storm... he [has made] a serious misjudgment... He cannot continue like this. He has gone too deep, too far," Ban said.

Washington said Russia and China, which have vetoed two draft resolutions on Syria since October on the grounds they were unbalanced, were moving closer to the rest of the international community in their positions.

"You're now seeing public statements, both from Russia and from China, that are quite clearly saying that they are not interested in protecting Assad, that they are not interested in anything but something that ends the violence," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.

International unity

After White House talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, US President Barack Obama also called for world leaders to speak with one voice against the regime in Damascus.

"The best thing that we can do right now is to make sure that the international community continues to unify around the fact that what the Syrian regime is doing is unacceptable," Obama said.

On the ground, security forces on Wednesday killed 13 civilians and seven army defectors in the southern city of Daraa where the revolt against Assad first broke out on March 15 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Also Wednesday, Noureddin al-Abdo, an activist in Idlib, confirmed the rebellious city in northwestern Syria had fallen after a four-day assault by regime forces.

The outgunned, rebel "Free Syrian Army [FSA] has withdrawn and regime forces have stormed the entire city and are carrying out house-to-house searches", said Abdo, reached by telephone from Beirut.

The army launched a major offensive in Idlib province near the Turkish border last Saturday, bombarding the city and sweeping into rural areas in a bid to root out armed insurgents.

Russia criticism

The capture of Idlib comes two weeks after regime forces stormed the Baba Amr rebel stronghold in Homs city, central Syria, following a month-long blitz that activists said left hundreds dead.

Russia, which has been accused of weakening the international response to the crisis by blocking Security Council action, on Wednesday criticised Assad for his "big delay" in implementing reforms.

In a rare public rebuke from Moscow to the Syrian leader, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Assad of "inertia" on the crisis that rights activists say has cost more than 8 500 lives in the past 12 months.

"The side in the conflict in Syria on which we have influence is the government of Bashar Assad. Unfortunately, his actions, in practical terms, reflect our advice far from always and far from swiftly," Lavrov said.

"Yes, he has adopted useful laws to renew the system - to make it more pluralistic than the one-party system that existed there - but with a big delay," he told the lower house parliament, the State Duma.

On Tuesday, Assad issued a decree setting May 7 as the date for parliamentary elections under a new constitution adopted in February, with Washington dismissing the planned vote as "ridiculous".

With Syria's isolation growing, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Italy on Wednesday closed down their embassies in Damascus in protest at the regime's bloody crackdown on dissent.

  • BA - 2012-03-15 13:42

    Democracy Russia-style. It would be a comedy if it was not so tragic. And not one comment besides mine - double standards all the way.

      BA - 2012-03-15 17:55

      You are wrong Patrick. Just because I do not agree with your point of view does not mean I hate all arabs. In fact, I have never said anything biased or hate-filled against arabs. You, on the other hand, have made profoundly bigotted, racist, anti-Semitic comments very often. Frankly, the destruction of life, like for example the massive genocide committed in Sudan, Somalia and against the Kurds, sickens me. What I find objectionable is your blind hatred and criticism of Israel and Jews, and your blind support for any organization that you perceive to be against Israel.

      Fred - 2012-03-16 05:06

      It's far less jingoistic an separatist than the Muslim states of the Middle East have been.

  • Garth - 2012-03-15 14:26

    What do you say Fidel, Riaad, Muedes, Patrick? Nice one Assad? Well done Russia and China? That'll show you American imperialist pig-dog? Come on! Show your liberal support for the oppressive regime supported by your failed-socialist heroes. Oh yes, China, hmmm, `another one bites the dust' come to mind?

      Fred - 2012-03-16 05:08

      He would be out of office by now had Russia and China stood together with the rest of the world and collectively said no more.

  • Fred - 2012-03-15 14:56

    It is imperative that Russia and China now realize what is actually going on, and what is really needed: A united stand across cultures and religions that looks Assad in the eye and says no more, step down, or else.

      Michael - 2012-03-15 17:05

      Afraid its not really about culture and religious differences Fred. Neither is it about those subjects within Syria although much effort has been made to make these the important issues. Both supporters and detractors of Assad come from all walks of life and all religious groups. However a "united stand" by opposition groups would certainly help their cause, a point that I have made, and with which you have disagreed several times. Unfortunately it sounds a bit like the old SA motto, but in my humble view it has a ring of truth in this case.

      Anthony - 2012-03-15 18:35

      Michael, You just don't get it................ WHY should the oppostion unite???? That is the whole essence of a democracy, different parties/groups, with different points of view ,of how their country should be governed. THAT is what they are fighting for !!!!!!!!!!! They DON'T want to unite. The ONLY common factor they have at present; They want this family of THUGS out. STOP treating the Syrian opposition as if they are a bunch of uneducated children/ They know damn well, what they want, and NOW, they also know how to get it !!!!

      Michael - 2012-03-15 19:22

      All pulling in different directions and with advice from the likes of you Anthony- sorry pal its a pathetic waste of effort and above all life. It would be laughable if it wasn't tragic. "A united stand.. that looks Assad in the eye", what you and your buddy have a fall out tonight? Kiss and make up with one another now like good kids.

      Michael - 2012-03-15 19:26

      If they DON'T want to unite then they WON'T get the THUGS out STOP speaking a lot of cr#p NOW Anthony dear.

      Anthony - 2012-03-15 19:56

      @Michael, Re, your first comment; Sorry, don't want to be rude, but I have not got a clue, what you are on about!!! Re, your second comment: Ohhh, don't worry, Yes, they WILL get this assad out, and, NO, they don't have to unite for this. Just ONE common goal, like the Tunesians, the Egyptians, and the Libyans !!!!!!

      Fred - 2012-03-16 01:00

      Michael, you can't support a united stand and agree with Russia and China's stance. They don't go together.

  • kafantaris2 - 2012-03-15 16:26

    Sarkozy is right. Assad is a murderer. What else would you call one who kills hundreds of protesters with snipers on rooftops? With so much blood on his hands, Assad and his henchmen are no longer concerned with saving Syria, but with saving their own hide. As a world community we can no longer avert our eyes from the crimes against humanity these monsters are committing daily. Assad has gone far beyond the point of return to civilized governance. He knows it and we know it. It is time we deal with him as the criminal he has become -- now merely desperate for an out. And just as we had acted with resolve against a similar criminal in Libya, we should act with resolve against Assad now in Syria. Russia and China would again be prudent to stay out of the way. Enough is enough. The world again has to do what needs to be done.

      Fred - 2012-03-16 00:58

      Instigated the peaceful demonstrations? I don't see what difference this makes. Everyone in their right mind wants Syrians to be able to vote for their leaders.

      Fred - 2012-03-16 05:09

      Patrick, yet above you question whether it is in fact internal. You've said this elsewhere too. So what exactly do you believe?

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