A cease-fire has been in effect since April 12 in Syria but there have still been daily reports of killings throughout the country. In a report on Wednesday, Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations Secretary General, said that Syria has failed to implement almost every aspect of the six-point peace plan. The U.N. is holding two high-level meetings today, April 19, to consider sending 300 unarmed cease-fire observers to Syria for at least three months and also to discuss the “viability” of the observer mission, given the Syrian regime’s failure to adhere to the peace deal proposed in previous weeks by Kofi Annan, the special envoy from the U.N. and the Arab League.
Activists report that the government has continued to shell neighborhoods believed to house rebels in the battered city of Hom. The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad has rejected a request by the advance party of 30 military U.N. observers to visit Homs.
Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, has said that the number of observers should be limited to no more than 250 and that they should all come from “neutral” countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — namely, the countries that have supported Assad’s government or criticized international efforts to isolate Syria. He also said that observers would have to rely on Syria’s military if they wished to use helicopters. Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the U.N., emphasized that the observers needed to have complete “freedom of movement.”
Ban’s letter also described an episode during the observers’ visit to Arbeen, a suburb of Damascus. Anti-government demonstrators surrounded the two white vehicles the observers were traveling in. A video showed one man asking pointed questions about whether the Syrian government has followed the peace plan. “They have come to see whether the tanks have pulled out or not?” the man asked; the crowd shouted “no!” back.
Both sides have said they remain committed to Annan’s peace proposal, despite what Ban said has been the “incomplete” stop to violence both on the part of the Syrian regime and of the armed opposition. The “Friends of Syria,” including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other Western and Arab leaders, will be meeting in Paris to discuss how to further put pressure on Assad’s regime.
Sheila Lyall Grant and Huberta Voss-Whittig, the wives of the British and German ambassadors to the U.N., have released a video addressed to Assad’s wife, Asma al-Assad, calling on her to demand that her husband end the violence that has taken the lives of over 9,000. “Some women struggle for their image and some women struggle for survival,” says the video, which juxtaposes glamorous images of the Syrian First Lady that appeared in a February 2011 issue of Vogue magazine with graphic photos of wounded children or their corpses.
The Assads have been shown on Syrian state television packing food aid and “dressed down,” in what seems to be an attempt to revise the image of them ordering luxury goods while Syrians have been starving, wounded and dying in the violence that has been going on for over a year.
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