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Syria ‘accepts’ Annan plan to end crisis, Assad tours demolished Homs district
BayBak, Azerbaijan | 422 days ago | Wednesday, 28th March , 2012 , 01:40 [am] | International
|.|| The Syrian government has agreed to accept the six-point plan by joint United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan on ending the violence in Syria, the former UN chief’s spokesman has said.
“The Syrian government
The Syrian government has agreed to accept the six-point plan by joint United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan on ending the violence in Syria, the former UN chief’s spokesman has said.
“The Syrian government has written to the joint special envoy Kofi Annan, accepting his six-point plan, endorsed by the United Nations Security Council,” Ahmad Fawzi said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Mr Annan views this as an important initial step that could bring an end to the violence and the bloodshed, provide aid to the suffering, and create an environment conducive to a political dialogue that would fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people,” he added.
Annan, who is in China to seek Beijing’s support for his peace proposal, had written to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad asking Damascus to “put its commitments into immediate effect”.
His plan calls on Assad to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from protest hubs, a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire, access to all areas affected by the fighting and a UN-supervised halt to all clashes.
Annan is due to in Baghdad on Thursday to discuss how to move forward with the plan with Arab League leaders.
The opposition had earlier dismissed Annan’s initiative as an opportunity for the government to continue its repression.
â€œWe are at the beginning of a long process. I think Kofi Annan has presented a plan which is extremely general in many of its terms, but it is the first step to pull the various contending parties into a dialogue,” Richard Murphy, a former US ambassador to Syria, told Al Jazeera.
“But to think that this going to work quickly, or to assume good faith on president Assadâ€™s part â€“ no it is not to be assumed. â€œ
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said: “The acceptance by Syria of the plan is very significant, but the question will be if the Syrian opposition now accepts it.”
Bassma Kodmani, an executive member of the Syrian National Council, a prominent opposition group, told Al Jazeera that the SNC “cautiously welcomes the regime’s acceptance of the plan”.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of opposition groups in Istanbul, Kodmani said the SNC would work towards making the plan succeed, but that its demand that Bashar al-Assad step down would not be dropped.
“We do continue to say that we need to see Bashar al-Assad step down. That will never change. For this, thousands of people have sacrificed. There is no way that any representative or credible opposition group can say otherwise. What we are saying here is that if this can open the way for a peaceful transition of power, this is what we would like to see,” she said.
The opposition meeting in the Turkish capital on Tuesday was marred by walkouts by a veteran dissident and several Kurdish leaders, who felt the SNC needed to display greater transparency. Talks will continue on Wednesday, as the opposition attempts to present a unified front ahead of an international contact group meeting on the crisis later this week.
Meetings on crisis
Arab leaders are due to meet in Baghdad on Thursday to discuss the crisis. Annan will brief leaders at the Arab League summit in the Iraqi capital.
Hoshiyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister, said that the League will support a Syrian-led power transfer.
“There has to be a political solution, fundamental constitutional and political changes for transfer of power in Syria but through a Syrian-led process,” Zebari said.
The UN-Arab envoy is also due to brief the UN security council on the situation in Syria.
Annan’s office also announced China’s decision to back Annan’s plan after the envoy held talks with Wen Jiabao, the Chinese prime minister. Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, has also pledged his country’s support for the plan.
Fawzi, Annan’s spokesman, said that the envoy has written to Assad asking the government to “put its [plan's] commitments into immediate effect”.
“Mr Annan has stressed that implementation will be key, not only for the Syrian people, who are caught in the middle of this tragedy, but also for the region and the international community as a whole,” Fawzi said.
China, along with Russia drew international criticism earlier this year for blocking a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria’s deadly crackdown on anti-government protests.
The former UN secretary-general’s visit to Beijing came amid continued shelling of the city of Homs by Syrian troops.
Syria’s state-run news agency, meanwhile, said Assad had travelled to the Baba Amr neighbourhood in Homs, a former opposition group stronghold that troops recaptured after a fierce assault. He was reported to have inspected troops stationed in the neighbourhood.
“Life will return to normal in Baba Amr, better than it was before,” Assad told dozens of residents as he surveyed the destruction wrought on the neighbourhood following a month-long assault by government forces.
Activists say hundreds were killed during that siege.
On Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based rights group, reported that at least 31 people, including 13 government troops, were killed in clashes across the country.
The UK-based group said that 18 of those killed were civilians, 13 of whom were killed in Homs. Violence was also reported in Idlib province, Damascus and near the border with Lebanon.
Despite global condemnation, Syrian troops have pushed ahead with offensives to reclaim territory from opposition fighters.
The UN has revised its estimate of the number of civilians killed in Syria’s year-long uprising to more than 9,000.
“Credible estimates put the total death toll since the beginning of the uprising one year ago to more than 9,000,” Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the UN Security Council.
In a sign of growing anxiety about the security situation, the Syrian authorities have banned men of military age from leaving the country, Lebanese officials said on Monday.
The restrictions, issued on Saturday, require men between the age of 18 and 42 to get permission from military recruitment and immigration departments before travelling, the sources said, adding that border traffic at the main crossing between Beirut and Damascus had fallen by 60 per cent since the regulation.
The move may impact the flow of thousands of Syrian workers who go to Lebanon for agricultural and construction projects, a major source of income in rural areas already hit by economic hardship as unrest grows.aljazeera
Syriaâ€™s President Bashar al Assad has been touring the flashpoint district of Baba Amr in Homs.
Fighting between government troops and rebel forces raged on here for weeks. Hundreds reportedly died and the scale of the devastation is clearly visible.
State television showed Assad meeting a group of local supporters and assuring them that reconstruction efforts would begin within weeks. He also agreed to make available a detailed timetable so that people, he said, can understand when life will return to normal.
It is hard, however, to imagine things here going back to how they were. Baba Amr was an emblem of opposition and rebel army defiance for more than three weeks and activists say his visit will trigger a fresh wave of deadly attacks against opposition forces.euronews, Voice of a Nation