Annan urges UN to unite on Syria; Damascus vows cooperation

Arab World Materials 16 March 2012 22:58 (UTC +04:00)

UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan called on the Security Council to unite to end violence in Syria, where 41 people were killed in government crackdowns upon opponents Friday, DPA reported.

"The stronger and more unified your message, the better chance we have of shifting the dynamics of the conflict," in Syria, Annan told the 15-nation council.

Excerpts leaked to the press quoted Annan in a video conference from Geneva saying that he was disappointed by President Bashar al-Assad's response to Annan's ideas for ending the bloodshed in Syria.

During a peace mission to Syria last week, Annan put forward proposals to al-Assad, including: a halt to violence; securing humanitarian access to civilian areas; and initiating inclusive political dialogue.

The former UN chief left Syria without a deal. Annan, in his briefing to the UN Security Council, stressed that, despite the "disappointing answer" from Damascus, he would continue his mission, which he described as "difficult."

Annan, as reported by regional broadcasters Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera, told the UN Security Council he would dispatch "a technical team," consisting of two or three people, to Damascus next week with the aim of negotiating a possible international monitoring mission.

Syrian ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari told reporters in New York that Annan's technical team would be in Damascus on Sunday for more talks "related to the fulfillment of his mission."

Jaafari, who described Annan's report as "positive," said the UN-Arab League envoy had embarked on a "comprehensive political process" to work out an end to the conflict and had imposed no preconditions on Damascus in the talks.

"All the details in the process will be an integral part of the negotiations," the Syrian diplomat said.

The Foreign Ministry in Damascus said Syria was "moving ahead with its efforts to find a political solution to the crisis it is going through in cooperation with the UN special envoy Kofi Annan, and through enhancing the democratic achievements it has started since March 2011 in various fields."

However, it vowed to continue military operations.

"The Syrian government is continuing to do its duty to protect its citizens, disarm terrorism and hold its perpetrators to account," the ministry said, according to state-run news agency SANA.

The Foreign Ministry sent identical letters to the Security Council and the UN's secretary general, as well as to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commission for Human Rights on the crimes recently perpetrated by what it termed "terrorist groups" in Homs and other provinces.

Since the outbreak of the revolution against al-Assad in mid-March 2011, Syrian authorities have blamed terrorist gangs financed by the West and certain Arab countries.

Meanwhile, violence continued to grip the provinces of Homs, Hama Idlib and Dara, after the opposition called for protests across the country in support of the pro-democracy revolution.

Government forces shelled a restive district in Syria's central Homs province to prevent residents from joining protests, opposition activists said. Five were killed and 10 injured in the shelling of al-Bayyada area.

"Shells rained on the neighbourhood shortly before noon prayers, after which the people were set to take to the streets in protest," Omar Homsi, an activist in the province, told dpa by satellite phone.

In Idlib, government forces continued to attack the outskirts of the city searching for escaping members of the opposition Free Syrian Army. Activists reported that 10 people were killed by security forces in Idlib, among them six rebels.

In the province of Hama, 12 people were killed by security forces, while 11 were killed in Daraa, near the Jordan-Syrian border.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday that 9,113 people, mainly civilians, had been killed across Syria since anti-government protests began last year.

News from Syria is hard to verify independently as the government has restricted the movement of foreign media in the country.

The continued violence prompted Turkey to urge its citizens to leave Syria, saying developments there have led to "serious security risks." It added that some of its consular services would be halted on March 22.