Hope is fading among world leaders and United Nations peace brokers that a failing cease-fire accord in Syria will end a conflict sliding toward civil war.
Kofi Annan, the UN architect of the six-point plan to end the violence in Syria, hit a pessimistic note in a briefing today to the Security Council, according to two diplomats who weren’t authorized to comment publicly. Annan told the council via video-link that Syria isn’t complying with the terms of the cease-fire he negotiated with leader Bashar al-Assad, they said.
The Syrian army has not retreated from population centers, as called for in the accord, and continues to fire heavy artillery against civilians, Annan said. In addition, Syrian authorities continue mass arrests, and the extent of violence remains “unacceptable,” he said, according to the diplomats.
“Thus far, it is plain that the Syrian regime has not implemented any” part of the Annan plan, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told reporters in New York following the Annan briefing. The situation in Syria “remains dire,” she said.
In Rome, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters, “I have lost faith” in the peace effort under which the UN has begun sending deploying unarmed cease-fire monitors. There are now 59 monitors on the ground, the start of a force authorized to total 300.
“What can 50 observers do?” the Turkish leader said after meeting his Italian counterpart, Mario Monti. “They can’t travel the country or even a small part of Syria. One would need 2,000 or 3,000 observers.”
‘Lack of Will’
Italy announced it will contribute 17 monitors for deployment in Syria.
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani last month gave Annan’s peace overtures a 3 percent chance of success.
“It’s easy to criticize Kofi but his plan reflects a lack of will by the international community to deal with the challenge,” Robert Danin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview. “We are headed to one of three things: greater international involvement, or Assad will succeed in rolling this back, or we will have civil war.”
Annan insisted to the UN’s decision-making body that the presence of even a small number of monitors has had a calming effect and that his plan, which isn’t an open-ended commitment, is the last chance to avoid civil war, according to the diplomats.
Should a full-fledged war follow, “the implications of that are quite frightening,” Annan told reporters in Geneva. “I am waiting for some suggestions as to what else to do. If there are better ideas I will be the first to jump on them.”
Syria’s parliamentary elections on May 7, touted by Assad as a step toward the political openness that the Syrian public is seeking, have been roundly dismissed by Western countries and their Arab allies as a sham. The 14-month conflict has claimed more than 9,000 lives, by UN estimates.
Military troops raided the central city of Homs as well as Aleppo, near the Turkish border, and Deir Ezzor province using heavy artillery and machines guns, leaving many wounded as fatalities totaled at least 20 today, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria said on its website.
Failure of the UN monitoring mission may persuade Russia and China, the strongest advocates for giving Annan’s initiative more time, to consider stronger measures such as additional sanctions to pressure Assad to stop killing his opponents and civilians.
The U.S. won’t support extending the mission beyond an initial 90 days if Assad isn’t meeting his obligations, Rice said last month.
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