Syria: Violence continues even after President al-Assad accepts UN-backed peace plan

Updated On: Mar 29, 2012

The Syrian crisis has been escalating over the past few weeks as violence between the military and the opposition continues to worsen.  This Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accepted a UN-Arab League peace plan that was proposed to Mr. al-Assad by UN ex-Secretary General Kofi Annan. However, despite agreeing to the initiative, reports say that violence is still rampant in many cities. The Syrian opposition and many analysts believe that the peace plan was accepted by Mr. al-Assad as a means to buy time and are skeptical that it will be put into due action.

The six-point peace plan calls for a UN-monitored end to the fighting, the pull-out of troops from opposition cities and humanitarian access, among other things. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged Mr. Assad to “put these commitments into immediate effect”, saying that doing so would be “an important initial step that could bring an end to the violence and the bloodshed and provide aid to those people who are suffering”.

Although the peace plan does not require Mr. Assad to step down as president, the US has been insistent on its view that Mr. Assad must leave power for violence to end. White House spokesman Josh Earnest has said that the US will view the Assad regime based on its actions rather than its words because Mr. Assad has made promises which he failed to keep before. Previous demands made by the opposition were not met even though Mr. Assad had agreed to attend to them. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwlle agreed with the US, saying that “it is actions that count, not words, and not just declarations of intent”.

Senior US lawmakers, headed by Republican Senator John McCain, also filed a resolution yesterday condemning the deadly violence used by Mr. Assad’s regime. The resolution hopes to urge the senate to “provide the people of Syria with the means to defend themselves against Bashar al-Assad and his forces, including through the provision of weapons and other material support”. This is despite the fact that the White House has made it clear that it does not support further militarization of the conflict. US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have already agreed last Sunday to send “non-lethal” aid to Syrian rebels.

On the other hand, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been supportive of Mr. Assad’s regime. According Iran’s state-run news media, Mr. Ahmadinejad was reported to have told one of Mr. Assad’s representative during a meeting that “it has become clear to all that the arrogant powers try to harm Iran, Syria and the resistance movement, trying to save the Zionist regime under the slogan of human rights and caring for freedom”.

Arab League leaders are set to meet in Baghdad for a major summit that will begin later today, with the Syrian crisis expected to feature prominently on the agenda.  Mr. Ban himself will be in attendance to discuss how the UN can work with the Arab League to put Mr. Annan’s proposal into action. But a Syrian government spokesman has said that the country will not “be dealing with or addressing any initiative that comes out of the Arab League at any level” since it was suspended from the League last year.

It remains to be seen whether the peace plan will be heeded by Syria.

Report: Syrian violence ignores peace diplomacy [Reuters, 28 March 2012]

Report: US senators file resolution to arm Syria opposition [AFP, 28 March 2012]

Report: UN leader presses Assad on peace plan [The New York Times, 28 March 2012]

Report: US pressures Syria as Arab League meets in Baghdad [BBC, 29 March 2012]

Report: US: Even with peace plan, Assad must leave power [AP, 29 March 2012]

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