Hopes For Ceasefire Dwindle With New Demands From Syria (video)
At least 100 people were killed in Syria on Saturday and 32 on Sunday, casting deep doubts that the Syrian government will carry out the terms of a ceasefire plan drawn up by Kofi Annan, special envoy from the United Nations and the Arab League. Syria is also demanding “written guarantees” from opposition fighters to stop fighting before it pulls back it troops.
These new demands, and the ongoing violence, have not been a surprise to opposition activists, who had been skeptical from the start about President Bashar al-Assad’s readiness to follow through on Annan’s six-point peace plan. According to the plan, there would be a “pullback of military concentrations in and around population centers” prior to a truce starting 48 hours later. At earlier points in the 13-month uprising, Assad has made similar promises for reforms that have turned out to be attempts to buy time and further divide the opposition. Many say that Annan was “naive and gullible” to think that Assad would actually implement a ceasefire, says the Guardian.
A spokesman for the Syrian foreign ministry, Jihad Makdissi, also demanded guarantees that the governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey would cease to fund armed groups. Col. Riad al-As’aad, the leader of the Free Syrian Army, said that he had not received any requests to send written guarantees to end the violence and predicted that the peace plan “will fail.” Analysts had said that Syria could not implement the plan as it would result in demonstrations throughout the country that the regime could not control.
Annan himself said that he was “shocked by recent reports of a surge in violence and atrocities in several towns and villages in Syria, resulting in alarming levels of casualties, refugees and displaced persons, in violation of assurances given to me.” The UN had said last Thursday that, if Syria did not follow Annan’s plan, it would take “further steps,” but what these might be are unclear as Russia and China have consistently refused any calls for Assad to step down.
Activists reported “mortar rounds falling like rain” in the rebel-held neighborhood of the central city of Homs, an opposition stronghold throughout the uprising. The BBC says that activist Tarek Badrakhan described bodies piling up in a makeshift hospital and attempts to keep them cold using a fan.
In his Easter blessing in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI made an appeal for “an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community.”
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