Syrians fall victim to ‘an appalling crime’
The victims of the massacre in Syria are being laid to rest. UN-Arab League envoy Annan (L - inset) speaks with UN mission chief in Syria Gen Mood in Damascus. AA photoUN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said his peace plan for Syria was not being implemented and that he was “shocked” by the massacre of more than 100 people in the town of Houla, while activists said the shelling and killings continued in other parts of the country.
“I am personally shocked and horrified by the tragic incident in Houla two days ago,” Annan said as he arrived in the Syrian capital. Annan said the “tragic” massacre was “an appalling moment with profound consequences,” before meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. He called on all sides of the conflict to end the bloodshed, saying “this message of peace is not only for the government, but for everyone with a gun.” “The six-point plan has to be implemented comprehensively. And this is not happening,” Annan added. The six-point peace plan calls on both sides to respect a cease-fire.
U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon said there was no “Plan B” if Annan’s plan fails, also saying that the Houla massacre had added to pressure on the more than 280 U.N. observers – the first U.N. force to be thrown unarmed into a conflict with a non-existent cease-fire. “I intend to have serious and frank discussions with President Bashar al-Assad,” Annan said. Al-Assad’s forces killed at least 41 people in an artillery assault on the city of Hama, activists said, shortly after the U.N. Security Council condemned the massacre in Houla. The U.N., not Syria, must investigate the Houla massacre, Human Rights Watch said. Damascus, however, reiterated its claim that the massacre was committed by “armed terrorist groups.”
Britain and France had proposed even stronger condemnation of the al-Assad regime. France will host a Friends of Syria meeting in Paris, the president’s office said yesterday. President François Hollande will discuss Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin when he visits Paris on June 1, the statement added. Liberals in the European Parliament (EP) yesterday called for international intervention to stop the massacre of civilians in Syria. Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal and Democrat group in the EP, said “an international intervention following the declaration of a safe zone in the north and the south of the country” could be an option for ending the violence in Syria. Meanwhile, Italy is ready to support humanitarian corridors as part of any tougher U.N. resolution, its Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said yesterday.
Ban has said these killings could have been the work of rebels or of government forces that moved in after the bombardment.
Russia blames both sides
“Both sides have obviously had a hand in the deaths. ... This area is controlled by the rebels, but it is also surrounded by the governmental troops,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks in Moscow with visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague. “The alternatives are the Annan plan or ever-increasing chaos in Syria,” said Hague. He said he urged Russia to put more pressure on the government of its Soviet-era ally to keep to the terms of Annan’s six-point proposal.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.