Syria Agrees to Peace Proposal: More Stalling For Time?
Syria says that it “agrees” to a six-point peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan, special envoy to the United Nations and the Arab League, and that it will begin implementing key aspects — withdrawing military troops and weapons from populated areas — by April 10. Under the plan, the UN would oversee a ceasefire by all parties, the withdrawal of troops and the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Even as Annan was meeting in a closed session to brief the UN Security Council about the details of the plan, there was more fighting in the regions of Idlib and Homs. The Local Coordination Committee, a network of activists, reported that 65 people were killed on Monday with 40 dead in Homs, 14 in Idlib, six in Hama and five in Aleppo. As the BBC notes, Annan himself “cautioned the Security Council that so far there was no sign of President Bashar al-Assad’s government keeping its promises on implementation.”
Gulf States To Pay Salaries to Syrian Opposition Fighters
After the briefing, the US’s ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said that, as past experience has led “us to be skeptical” about Syria actually implementing the peace plan’s terms, an escalation of violence was possible. Indeed, according to the BBC‘s Barbara Plett, in the closed session, Annan said that Syria had described itself as not ready to withdraw troops until the armed opposition lays down its weapons.
At a Sunday meeting in Istanbul, the “Friends of Syria,” which is comprised of 83 countries calling for political change in Syria, warned Assad that the “window of time” to comply with Annan’s plan is very limited. Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who hosted the meeting, urged the UN Security Council not to hesitate and accused the Syrian regime of accepting Annan’s peace plan only to stall for time. While saying that Turkey (which just over a year ago was Syria’s close ally) would not interfere there, Erdogan emphasized that “the world could not stand idle as the opposition withered” in the face of the government’s arsenal of modern weaponry.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf countries said at the meeting that they would pay the salaries of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as well as other costs. Arab nations pledged a total of $100 million, says the New York Times:
The countries providing most of the money for salaries — Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — have long been the fiercest opponents of Mr. Assad’s rule, reflecting the sectarian split in the Arab world between Sunnis and Shiites. Mr. Assad and his inner circle are Alawites, a Shiite minority offshoot that has nonetheless dominated political and economic life in Syria, despite its majority Sunni population. It also has Christian and other smaller sectarian groups.
The US has agreed to send communications equipment including satellite technology and night-vision goggles to opposition fighters. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged $12 million in humanitarian assistance for international organizations assisting Syrians, bringing the amount of aid the U.S. has so far pledged to Syria to $25 million.
Over 9,000 have reportedly died in the Syrian uprising that began in March of 2011. Precise figures are impossible to determine as foreign journalists remain barred from reporting from the country. Since November, at least eight journalists have been killed while covering the events in Syria. The New York Times Lede blog reports that citizen journalist Ali Mahmoud Othman, who has been a key source of information about the violence in Homs and especially in the now shelled-out Baba Amr district, is said to have been captured and tortured by the regime.
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