Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has received backing from an expected source, says the Guardian, Kafranbel in Syria’s north-west Idlib province. Romney has criticized President Barack Obama for not taking a harsher stance towards Russia in its support of Syria. On Fox News, Romney said that “This president has not communicated strength and resolve around the world. We need to make it very clear to Moscow that their interference in Syria poses a grave threat to the national interests of America, and to free people around the world.”
Last year, a banner in Kafranbel proclaimed “we miss Bush’s audacity.”
There is no question that the crisis in Syria seems graver than ever. On Thursday, a “massacre” was reported in Douma, a suburb of the capital, Damascus. Al Jazeera reports that at least 51 have been killed; the city has been under heavy bombardment now for 24 days. Activists said that ten people were executed by pro-regime militia at a checkpoint as they tried to flee to safety. Also on Thursday, Syrian state television reported that two bombs exploded outside the Palace of Justice in central Damascus.
Activists are saying that a total of 190 civilians were killed in a 24-hour period, making Thursday the deadliest day in the uprising so far, says the New York Times.
The US, and Western nations, have remained wary about military intervention in the increasingly complicated 16-month crisis in Syria.
Global leaders are preparing to convene in Geneva this weekend to discuss the crisis in Syria where over 3,000 have been killed this month according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. While Russia, Syria’s long-time ally, had indicated earlier this week that Syria needed a “period of political transition,” on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov clearly stated that his country would not support any plan that involves “any meddling from outside or any imposition of recipes.”
Lavrov said that his comments extended to “the fate of the president of the country, Bashar al-Assad.” Assad told Iranian television today that he would not accept any solutions imposed from outside. The crisis in Syria is an “internal issue which has nothing to do with foreign countries,” Assad said; he attributed the violence that has consumed the country for the past sixteen months to “terrorists.”
In other words, as the BBC’s Jim Muir says, Assad’s response is a “message to intensifying international diplomacy … that it was a waste of time.”
Nonetheless, Kofi Annan, the special envoy to the United Nations whose six-point peace plan, agreed upon by Assad, has so far failed to end the violence in Syria, has said he is “optimistic” about the upcoming talks in Geneva and that there will be an “acceptable result.” Following the meeting, Annan could put forward a plan for a national unity cabinet that would include Syrian opposition leaders but would exclude those whose “participation would undermine it” — the latter phrase being seen as a reference to Assad.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar, will be at the Geneva meeting. Iran will not be present due to Western countries’ objections and neither will Saudi Arabia, due to Russia’s objections.
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