The United Nations-backed peace plan to end the violence in Syria is “on track,” according to the office of Kofi Annan, special envoy to the U.N. and the Arab League who negotiated the plan back in April. At a U.N. briefing in Geneva on Friday, Annan’s spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, said that negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition were continuing “under the radar.”
Fawzi’s comments were made at the same time as the Local Co-ordination Committees, the network of opposition activists, announced that at least 33 people had died across Syria and as wide-scale protests were staged. In Hama, long a center of anti-regime sentiment, government forces fired on protesters; activists also said soldiers fired on demonstrators outside the main mosque in the capital of Damascus.
Throughout the over-year-long uprising in Syria that has left over 9,000 dead, Friday has been a day of protest. This week, activists issued the slogan “Our commitment [to the revolution] is our salvation.”
Amnesty Issues Report on Crackdown in Syria
Also on Friday a report from Amnesty International by senior crisis adviser Donatella Rovera described executions and the destruction of houses by regime forces in the northern city of Idlib. The report is based on testimony from residents who described hundreds of homes in several villages burnt to the ground and of people terrorized by soldiers. Amother spoke of her sons taken from her home, only to find her “boys burning in the street.”
Rovera was in Syria for ten days during the second half of April. Here is one of the first-hand accounts from her report:
In Saraqeb, a woman told me that in the afternoon of 26 March soldiers came to her home and took her 15-year-old son and then her 21-year-old brother from the neighbour’s house next door. “I begged them not to take my boy, I told them that he is just a child, he still watched cartoons on TV; I tried to shield him with my body but they threatened me and took him away. And they also took my brother from the next door house. In the evening their bodies were found in the street, with others who had also been killed.”
Idlib has been under assault for the past six months. The attacks against the city intensified in March after Syrian troops routed the central city of Homs after laying siege to its Bab Amr district for weeks. According to the Guardian, ”in Idlib, as in Homs, what was once a popular, unarmed uprising has given way to a two-way fight” between government troops and “guerilla forces made up of the rebel Free Syria Army and residents who have taken up arms.”
Annan Spokesman Says U.N. Mission Is Only Option
U.N. monitors have been visiting restive parts of Syria. On Thursday, Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, the head of the U.N. observer mission, said that there was yet a “good chance and an opportunity” to end the violence in Syria. By the end of Friday, there were to be about 50 U.N. observers on the gorund in Syria; Fawzi also said that the U.N. has acquired commitments from about 150 of the 300 observers authorized by the U.N. Security Council.
Reporting from Beirut in neighboring Lebanon, Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin said that the U.N. is “trying to find a way around every obstacle” and seeking to make the mission work because, according to Annan’s spokesman Fawzi, there is no other option.
At the same time, the Obama administration expressed concern that the cease-fire is not holding in Syria and that, due to the “regime’s intransigence,” other measures would have to be explored.
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