Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Arab League and Western countries pushing peace plan for Syria in Security Council

Syrian goverment troops seen entering a village at the outskirts of Damascus. (Reuters)
While Syrian government troops continue an offensive to retake areas that fell into the hands of opposition troops in the past weeks, the UN Security Council is going to debate a plan of the Arab League that calls on Assad to relinquish power to his deputy and prepare for elections. Secretary-General of the Arab League Nabil El-Araby and the prime minister of Qatar will make the case at the world body on Tuesday and try to overcome objctions from Russia and China.The Arab delegation will be supported in person by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe as the West presents a united front.
Meanwhile the violence in Syria continues. On Monday 96 people, including 55 civilians, were killed, mostly in the region Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday. Also 25 soldiers were killed. Included in the 96 people killed were 10 dissident soldiers and six members of the security services. The organisation said in a statement received in Nicosia that 40 civilians were killed in Homs, nine in Syria's southern Dera'a region, five in outlying districts of Damascus (where Syrian govenment troops succeeded in retaking several areas from Free Syria Army-soldiers) and one in northwestern Idlib region. In addition, the bodies of a family of six killed last Thursday were found in the Karm Al-Zeitun neighbourhood of Homs, it said. On Sunday, 80 people were reportedly killed, equally divided between military and civilian deaths, in the most intense clashes of the uprising began, the Observatory reported.
A draft of the U.N. Security Council resolution, obtained by Reuters, calls for a "political transition" in Syria, and says the Security Council could adopt unspecified "further measures" if Syria does not comply with its terms. It endorses the Arab League power transfer plan. So far Moscow has shown little sign of being persuaded to let it pass. "The current Western draft is only a step away from the October version and can by no means be supported by us," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told Interfax. "This document is not balanced ... and above all leaves the door open for intervention in Syrian (internal) affairs."
Moscow said earlier that Damascus had agreed to its offer to host talks with opposition representatives.However, the Syrian opposition rejected this out off hand. The head of the Syrian National Council said that the opposition rejects all talks with the Damascus regime until Assad steps down. “The resignation of Assad is the condition for any negotiation on the transition to a democratic government in Syria,” Burhan Ghalioun told AFP. The second largest opposition grouping, the Syrian National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, followed suit. “Any negotiation or meeting is inconceivable in the shadow of the growing violence and killings, and the persistent arrests,” its leader Hassan Abdel Azim told AFP.

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