United Nations envoy Kofi Annan left Syria without reaching an agreement with President Bashar al-Assad for a cease-fire in the year-old uprising amid reports dozens more people were killed yesterday by government forces.
Assad rejected overtures to talk with opposition groups he labeled terrorists in two days of talks with Annan. A deal will be “tough, but we have to have hope,” Annan said in televised remarks to reporters in Damascus yesterday.
The former UN secretary-general submitted proposals aimed at halting the violence in Syria, where more than 7,500 people have died since anti-government protests started in March 2011, according to UN estimates. The U.S. is drafting a new Security Council resolution after Russia and China blocked a measure supporting an Arab League plan for Assad to step down.
Security forces killed at least 130 people yesterday, Al Jazeera television reported, citing activists. Among them were 20 women and 25 children in the Karam Al-Zaitoun neighborhood of Homs, according to Abu Jaafar al-Homsi, an activist from the city.
Video on Al Jazeera showed a room filled with dead children covered with blankets, their necks showing signs of knife wounds. Dozens of girls were kidnapped from the neighborhood, according to Bassam Jaara, a member of the Syrian National Council, the leading opposition group.
The Syrian National Council, in a statement posted on its Facebook page, denounced the “grisly crime” in Homs and called on the UN Security Council to take the necessary measures to stop all kinds of “genocide, including an urgent and decisive intervention that would bar the regime from using death and destruction machines.”
Syria’s state-run news agency SANA said the images from Homs were of “crimes committed by the armed terrorist groups who kidnapped and killed civilians in Homs.” It said those groups escalate “their crimes ahead of UN Security Council sessions to elicit anti-Syria stands.”
Syria’s government intends to fight armed opposition groups until their “total annihilation,” Riad Haddad, the country’s envoy to Russia, told reporters in Moscow today.
Boxing Champ Killed
An armed “terrorist” group shot and killed boxing champion Ghiath Tayfour in Aleppo yesterday, SANA reported. In Idlib, about 1,000 rebel fighters were trying to hold off the army yesterday, Al Jazeera said.
Assad said he’s ready to help with “honest efforts” to end the violence. Annan cautioned Assad about ignoring the democratic changes of the “Arab Spring” in the region that led to the toppling of leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
Annan told reporters he cited an African proverb to the Syrian president: “You cannot turn the wind, so turn the sail.”
Bassma Kodmani, a member of the Syrian National Council, told the BBC from Istanbul that Assad “stepping down is a first condition of any discussion, any negotiation.”
Annan also met with members of the Damascus-based opposition, said Mahmoud Merei, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights. Discussions centered on finding a political solution to the crisis and getting humanitarian aid to areas affected by the violence, Merei, who attended the meeting, said by telephone from Damascus yesterday.
Mouna Ghanem, one of the opposition leaders who met with Annan, told Al Jazeera by telephone that activists proposed an international mediation group.
The UN Security Council probably won’t agree this week on a resolution calling for a cease-fire and access for humanitarian aid in Syria because of Russian opposition, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to continue diplomatic efforts today in New York with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told journalists in Riyadh yesterday that Syria’s government must be persuaded that there isn’t a military solution to the conflict.
Assad’s government has stepped up a violent campaign to crush the resistance since China and Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution last month that called for him to step down. Russia is a major arms supplier to Syria and maintains a naval base in the port of Tartous.
To contact the reporters on this story: Donna Abu-Nasr in Manama at firstname.lastname@example.org; Zaid Sabah Abd Alhamid in Washington at email@example.com
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