Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Conflicting reports as to whether Syria is ignoring or partially complying with the Annan plan....

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/10/syria-ceasefire-fighting-continues-deadline-passes


Syria ceasefire: fighting continues as deadline passes

Residents in Homs and Hama report shelling and tanks on streets as tensions grow over shooting at a Turkish refugee camp
Ali Shaaban
Mourners carry the coffin of Lebanese television cameraman Ali Shaaban, working for al-Jadeed TV who was shot dead on the Lebanon-Syria border, by Syrian troops. Photograph: Bilal Hussein/AP
A UN-imposed deadline for a ceasefire in Syria has passed with government forces again shelling the central city of Homs, with no sign of an end to the crackdown that has killed an estimated 9,000 people over the past 13 months.
As Homs residents reported intermittent shelling and mortar fire on Tuesday morning, Turkey's foreign minister cut short a visit to China after Syrian forces fired across the border into a refugee camp.
Ahmet Davutoglu, in China with the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will return home to co-ordinate the response to Monday's incident near the town of Kilis in Turkey's south-western Gaziantep province. A Turkish foreign ministry official said at least five people were injured, including two Turkish nationals. Speaking to reporters in Bejing Tuesday, Erdogan said his country was considering its response, including measures "we don't want to think about".
Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, urged Syria to be "more decisive" in implementing the ceasefire following talks in Moscow with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Muallem. However, Lavrov, whose country joined China in vetoing a UN security council motion in February targeting Syria, also called for greater international pressure for rebel groups to adhere to the peace plan.
It had been clear for some time that little was likely to come from the 6am Tuesday deadline for government troops and the rebel forces opposing them to lay down their arms, under a six-point peace plan by the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan. Syria's president,Bashar al-Assad, had demanded written guarantees that armed groups would first lay down their weapons. This was swiftly refused.
Residents in Homs, the centre of the anti-Assad uprising, which has faced weeks of bombardment from government troops, said shelling was continuing, while people in Hama, reported hearing tanks still patrolling the streets. "Shelling woke me this morning at 8.30 and I can now hear one shell every 10 minutes or so," Waleed Fares, a resident of Homs told Reuters.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most cities were relatively calm on Tuesday following significant bloodshed in recent days, but reported no clear sign of troop withdrawals.
Similarly, there were no reports of a ceasefire by the rebel Free Syrian Army, which has refused to stop fighting until it sees signs of a withdrawal by government forces.
The shooting across the Turkish border, along with an incident in which Syrian troops fired into northern Lebanon, has caused further international alarm.
The former is the first such incident since Turkey began sheltering thousands of Syrians last summer. Washington expressed outrage, saying the Syrian government appeared to be showing little commitment to Annan's peace plan.
Mohammad Abdelqader, a refugee in the camp, told Reuters he had witnessed the shootings on Monday and that two Syrians had been killed and two more injured. Annan is expected to visit the border on Tuesday. Two prominent American senators, John McCain and Joe Lieberman, are also expected to visit.
Lebanon's al-Jadeed television channel said one of its cameramen, Ali Shaaban, had been shot dead near the border between the two countries. Syrian troops fired about 40 rounds across the border into northern Lebanon, killing Shaaban, Associated Press reported. "If you see the car, you would think it was in a war zone," Shaaban's colleague, Hussein Khreis, told the station.
Analysts suggested that, having apparently missed one deadline for a withdrawal and ceasefire, it will not be easy for Annan to set another given the profound lack of trust between the Syrian parties. Speculation is rife about a Turkish plan B, perhaps involving the establishment of a border buffer zone.
The effective collapse of the Annan plan, sponsored by the Arab League as well as by the UN, means that western and Arab governments are likely to seek a return to the UN security council, though there is no sign that Russia and China will reverse their opposition to censuring or sanctioning the Assad regime.
On Tuesday, China reiterated its call for both sides to comply immediately with the Annan plan.
Syrian state media insisted on Monday that the Assad government stood by its commitment to the Annan plan and blamed "armed groups" for failing to provide written guarantees that they would stop fighting before regime forces withdrew from cities.
Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, claimed in a report that Syrian security forces had summarily executed more than 100 civilians and wounded or captured opposition fighters during recent attacks on cities and towns. Many of the incidents took place in March this year, it said.
In the cases documented by the organisation, at least 85 victims were Syrians who did not take part in fighting, including women and children. The report describes in detail several cases of mass executions of civilians, including the killing of at least 13 men in a mosque in Idlib on 11 March, the execution of at least 25 men during a search-and-arrest operation in Homs on 3 March, and the killing of at least 47 people, mainly women and children, in three neighbourhoods of Homs on 11 and 12 March.
and....
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/04/201241092145250519.html
Syria: Troops being pulled out from provinces
Foreign minister pledges commitment to Annan ceasefire plan but seeks say in composition of implementation team.
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2012 11:59
Lavrov, right, says Assad's government 'could have been more active' in implementing peace plan [Reuters]
Syria's foreign minister says Damascus has begun withdrawing some of its troops from cities in line with a UN-backed peace plan to end a year of bloodshed in the country.
Walid al-Muallem, speaking on Tuesday after meeting his Russian counterpart in Moscow, said Syria wanted a say in the composition of an international team to observe implementation of a ceasefire in the country.
“We have already withdrawn forces and army units from several Syrian provinces,'' Muallem said.
"An end of violence must be simultaneous with the arrival of the international observers."
 
Brokered by Kofi Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, the six-point peace plan required Syrian forces to pull back from protest centres by Tuesday.
But activists say that Syrian forces have attacked two towns as the deadline passed.
Shelling was reported in the northern village of Marea and mortar fire in the city of Homs, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Muallem said his government wanted guarantees from Annan that the opposition fighters would commit to a ceasefire.
"We will not ask the terrorist groups, which are killing, kidnapping and destroying infrastructure, for guarantees," he said.
"We want Annan to give us these guarantees."
'Infringing border'
For their part, Russia and China, who have twice shielded Syria from UN sanctions, called on the government of Bashar al-Assad as well as the opposition to work towards Annan’s proposed truce.
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said Syria's government “could have been more active and decisive'' in implementing the peace plan.
Separately, Liu Weimin, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said his country hopes the Syrian government and opposition “stay with their commitment to the ceasefire and withdrawal, and create favourable conditions for easing the tension in Syria and pushing for a political resolution for the Syria issue".
Anita McNaught reports on the border shooting
Assad's crackdown on the uprising, that has brought clashes with an increasingly armed opposition, has killed more than 9,000.
The fighting has also spilled over Syria's borders and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, has accused Syria of infringing its border.
A day after Syrian forces opened fire across the border, killing two people in a refugee camp, Erdogan said his country is considering what steps to take in response, including measures “we don't want to think about".
Turkish authorities said on Monday that Syrian forces fired across the border into a refugee camp in southeastern Turkey, wounding at least six people.
Annan was expected at the camp, in Gaziantep province, on Tuesday before his visit to Iran for Syria-related talks.
Al Jazeera’s Idil Gungor, reporting from the Kilis camp, said Annan’s helicopter returned without landing.
“We were waiting for Kofi Annan. Without landing, he flew over the Kilis refugee camp and turned back to Hatay,” she said, referring to another Turkish province bordering Syria.
“While waiting for Annan, people were demonstrating against the Syrian government and calling on the UN to take further steps.”