Annan wants Tehran to be part of Syria solution
GENEVA / MOSCOW
Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan (R), and UN observer mission chief in Syria, Major General Robert Mood (L), speak to the media in Geneva.
Iran should be a part of the solution to the Syria crisis, international mediator Kofi Annan said June 22, a week before a planned crisis meeting, which is now in doubt due to Western objections to the Islamic Republic’s participation, is scheduled to take place.
The United States has vehemently opposed Russia’s demand for Iran’s involvement. Annan said the composition of the meeting is one of the sticking points that may not be resolved until next week. “I have made it quite clear that I believe Iran should be part of the solution,” Annan told reporters in Geneva. Iran, a powerful ally and neighbor of Syria, is the subject of a diplomatic standoff between the United States and Russia, which differ not only on the way forward on Syria but also on Iran’s nuclear program.
Annan also urged the international community to raise the level of pressure on both sides in the conflict.
“It’s time for countries of influence to raise the level of pressure on the parties on the ground and to persuade them to stop the killing and start the talking,” he said. Annan, who underlined the importance of making sure the crisis did not spread to neighbouring countries, also praised the work of the U.N.’s unarmed observers under Major General Robert Mood, head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS).
Mood, who was by Annan’s side in Geneva, said his observers could be “proud” of “a job well done.” On June 19, Mood told the U.N. Security Council that it was too dangerous for 300 U.N. monitors to operate at full capacity and suspended much of the mission’s tasks. “I am going to commend them on the job they are doing and are doing ... our aim is to continue with our mandated tasks,” he said.
Syria must do a lot more: Lavrov
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that he had urged Syria’s government to “do a lot more” to implement envoy Kofi Annan’s U.N.-backed peace plan, but that foreign countries must also press rebels to stop the violence.
After talks with Syria’s foreign minister, Lavrov said Syria’s government was prepared to withdraw forces from cities and towns simultaneously with rebels and suggested Moscow would seek support for such an agreement among other nations. His remarks appeared aimed at indicating that Moscow is putting pressure on President Bashar al-Assad’s government while at the same time making clear his opponents share the blame for the persistence of violence.
“We called on them to back their statement of readiness to carry out Kofi Annan’s plan with action,” Lavrov said of his meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on the sidelines of an economic forum in St. Petersburg. “They have already done a lot but they could and must do a lot more,” Lavrov told state-run Rossiya-24 television.
On the ground, the Syrian government accused rebels of carrying out a “brutal massacre” of 25 of its supporters. In the reported massacre, “armed terrorist groups … kidnapped a number of citizens in the Daret Azzeh area in the countryside of Aleppo, according to official sources in the province,” the state SANA news agency said.
Turkey host 12 generals
The independent Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave a higher toll for the pro-regime losses, saying at least 26 government supporters, most of them members of the feared shabiha militia, had been killed.
It came after at least 168 were killed in violence across Syria on June 21, the highest single-day death toll since Annan Plan was supposed to take effect on April 12, the Observatory said. Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Selçuk Ünal said Turkey hosts 32,750 Syrian refugees, including 12 generals from the Syrian army, denying reports that Riad al-Asaad commander of the Free Syrian Army had left Turkey.
Ünal also rebuffed allegations that weapons are shipped into Syria to Syrian opposition through Turkish borders after a report claimed the country was among nations arming rebels fighting the regime in Syria.
“No weapons are delivered from Turkey to any neighboring country, including Syria,” Ünal told reporters yesterday, adding that such articles were based on unidentified sources. The New York Times reported on June 21 that U.S. intelligence had settled in southern Turkey maintaining flow of weapons to Syrian opposition to ensure they do not fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda militants.
Citing unnamed U.S. officials and Arab intelligence officials the New York Times claimed the arms were being paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and taken across the Turkish border.
The U.N also said the number of Syrians in need of humanitarian aid has shot up by 500,000 to 1.5 million in less than three months.