Saturday, February 25, 2012

'Friends of Syria' try to isolate Assad further

 British Channel 4 carried this blood chilling report about the siege and shelling of Homs on 22 February. The same day reporters Narie Covin (SndayTimes) and the French photographer Rému Ochlik were killed in Homs by a rocket.

Representatives of more than 70 nations in Tunisia for the "Friends of Syria" meeting have called for an immediate end to violence in the country and for new sanctions on the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
In a final declaration on Friday, the group also called to allow for humanitarian aid to be brought in.
It vowed to "press the Syrian regime to stop all acts of violence" by enforcing current sanctions and introducing new ones, including with travel bans, asset freezes, ceasing oil purchases, reducing diplomatic ties and preventing the shipment of arms.

"[Friends of Syria] demanded that the Syrian regime immediately permit humanitarian agencies to deliver vital relief goods and services to civilians affected by the violence," the declaration said.
The group also recognised the main opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), as "a legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change" but fell short of giving it exclusive recognition.
 The declaration did not fully endorse some Arab calls for peacekeepers to be deployed to Syria, with the declaration saying only that it "noted the Arab League's request to the United Nations Security Council to issue a resolution to form a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping force".
Prior to the declaration, Saudi Arabia and Qatar pushed for a more forceful intervention in Syria, with Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, saying he supported the arming of opposition fighters.
Faisal said Syrians had the right to defend themselves against a crackdown by security forces that has left thousands dead.
 US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton forcefully criticised Russia and China which did not attend the Tunis conference. "They are setting themselves not only against the Syrian people but also the entire Arab awakening. It's quite distressing to see permanent members of the Security Council using their veto when people are being murdered - women, children, brave young men -- houses are being destroyed. It is just despicable."
 Meanwhile Assad's forces killed 103 people in Syria on Friday in the bombardment of the besieged city of Homs and in attacks on the countryside of Hama and the east and north of the country, the activist group Local Coordination Committees said. Most of those killed were civilians, including 14 children and one woman, it said.

Earlier, the UN and the Arab League appointed Kofi Annan, a former UN secretary-general, to act as a joint special envoy on Syria. He "will consult broadly and engage" with all sides inside Syria and out, "to end the violence and the humanitarian crisis," a UN statement said.
Annan is backed by a UN general assembly resolution and Arab League resolutions that support the league's plan for Mr Al Assad to delegate power to a vice president while a national unity government is formed ahead of elections. He will try to "facilitate a peaceful Syrian-led and inclusive political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people," the statement added. Russia yesterday welcomed Mr Annan's appointment. A western diplomat said that efforts by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to find an Arab envoy had failed because of the difficulty in appointing someone acceptable to both Mr Al Assad and the opposition.

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