Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Syrian opposition meets in Cairo trying to forge a common position

 Picture from video taken during bombardment by government troops of  Talbiseh, a suburb of Homs. (Picture AP). The army kept up its bombardment of rebel neighbourhoods of  Homs on Monday.
The government also kept up its bombardements of suburbs of Damascus. Helicopters bombarded Damascus suburb of Douma on Monday, were government forces started to attack two days earlier.
Monday's violence killed at least 30 people across the country, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Right
Members of Syria's opposition met behind closed doors in Cairo to try and find a common vision after the major powers during the weekend in Geneva agreed on the need for a power sharing  transition  government.
The meeting was chaired by Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi. Among the participants were the Syrian National Council and the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, all in all some 250 opposition figures attended. Al-Arabi, urged the factions "not to waste this opportunity" and to "unite." Nasser al-Qudwa, deputy to UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan, echoed Arabi's call. The meeting was  also attended by the foreign ministers of Turkey, Iraq and Kuwait.
The meeting was boycotted by rebel fighters. In a statement, signed by the Free Syrian Army and "independent" activists, they criticized that fact that armed intervention was not mentioned in the agreement reached in Geneva. According to the FSA and its allies  the agreement served the interests of the Damascus regime's allies Russia and Iran. It also blasted the agreement for "ignoring the question of buffer zones protected by the international community, humanitarian corridors, an air embargo and the arming of rebel fighters."
The transition plan for Syria that was reached this weekend in Geneva was a compromise with Russia and China .  It was immediately branded a failure by both the opposition and Syrian state media. The plan did not make any explicit call for Assad to cede power, as urged by Western governments, after Russia and China insisted that this has to be decided by the Syrians themselves.  The opposition Syrian National Council said on Sunday that "no initiative can receive the Syrian people's backing unless it specifically demands the fall of Bashar al-Assad and his clique." However, the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria said Monday that the plan is the best way to ensure a political transition that avoids a full collapse of the Syrian state. 
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland commented that the plan contained a clause that members of a transitional governing body to run Syria had to be agreed "by mutual consent." "So from our perspective... there is no way that Assad, his cronies or anybody with blood on their hands is going to meet the mutual consent standard," she told reporters. "This express, written assurance gives them ironclad guarantees that they will be able to veto people like Assad."
Meanwhile,  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay briefed the UN Security Council in New York and afterwards told the press that the violence was being fuelled by arms supplies to both the government and opposition.' Any further militarisation of the conflict must be avoided at all costs,' she said. Pillay did not name countries. Russia and Iran are known to be suppliers to President Bashar al-Assad and Gulf states, notably Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have given weapons to the increasingly well-armed opposition.
Pillay said the government and opposition were carrying out "serious" new rights violations including attacks on hospitals and told the council that the violence is becoming "increasingly sectarian." With the United Nations considering the future of its observers in Syria, Pillay said she told the council it must "support and strengthen" the UN Supervision Mission in Syria so that it can "effectively" monitor events.

Human Rights Watch released a new report about torture in Syria. Based on interviews with more than 200 former detainees it identified 27 torture centers across the country.

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