Tension at Turkish border turns world focus on Syria
WASHINGTON / HATAY
Accompanied by Turkish and UN officials, UN-Arab League joint envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan (2nd from L), walks in boots at Hatay Airport after visiting Syrian camps in Yayladağı district. Annan calls all sides in Syria to cease fire in accordance with his peace plan. REUTERS photoInternational envoy to Syria Kofi Annan said there should be no preconditions to halting the violence in Syria and appealed to all sides to comply with the truce deadline of April 12 at 6:00 a.m. Eastern European Summer Time (EEST).
“I again appeal to the Syrian government and the Syrian parties to cease violence in accordance [with] the plan,” he said at a news conference held at the airport in the Hatay province of southern Turkey, where he visited Syrian refugee camps. “I believe there should be no preconditions for stopping violence.”
Annan said yesterday the U.N. Security Council would take up the issue and was expected to write a letter to the Security Council yesterday.
“On the question of whether the plan is succeeding or failing, I believe it is a bit too early to say that the plan has failed. The plan is still on the table,” he said at the joint press conference with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay. “We still have time between now and the 12th [of April] to stop violence,” he said.
Annan said he had seen many refugee camps before and the Syrian refugee camps in Turkey are some of the best. The number of Syrian refugees staying in Turkey has reached 24,288 according to AFAD.
Atalay said the U.N. Security Council should step in and fulfill its responsibilities if the Syrian regime does not cooperate with the implementation of the peace plan. Annan said there is an increasing flow of people from Syria to Turkey, which points to an escalation of violence or another issue. Annan said this flow of people over the border cannot be explained with anything else.
Annan said he had information that the Syrian military was withdrawing from some areas but moving to others not previously targeted. He appealed to all sides to stop the violence.
Activists who supply much of the information coming from sites in Syria such as Homs, Hama and Idlib say attacks by the Syrian army have not diminished. The main Syrian opposition group estimated that some 1,000 people have been killed in regime attacks in the week leading up to Tuesday’s withdrawal deadline. Fighting on Tuesday claimed the lives of at least 29 civilians and 11 regime soldiers, activists said.
U.S. senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman also visited a tent-site in Hatay yesterday and talked with Syrians who had fled to Turkey from Syria. Lieberman and McCain met with Syrian National Council leader Burhan Ghalioun on April 9 and also with Free Syrian Army leaders in Hatay, according to Lieberman. He said the two groups told them it was an unfair fight. “They don’t have the weapons Assad has they said,” Lieberman said, adding that the anger they have about the killings Assad conducted was deep. McCain said they met with Turkish President Abdullah Gül but did not discuss the details of the needs of Syrian opposition in Turkey. McCain said SNC and FSA have almost no division in their stances on the issue. “See you in Damascus next year,” McCain said.
US presses UN Security Council ahead of Syria report
The United States said yesterday that it hoped the UN Security Council would consider action if Annan concludes that Syria’s government broke troop withdrawal commitments. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Washington was waiting for Annan’s assessment of the situation, but so far had only seen evidence of further “brutality and aggression” from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. “We would certainly hope the UN Security Council would evaluate the situation in Syria if in fact Annan finds that the Assad regime has not abided by its own commitments to begin withdrawal by today,” Carney said.
Carney, speaking aboard Air Force One, said the US would work with its partners and other nations in the aftermath of Annan’s letter to decide what the next steps to take are regarding Syria.
Compiled from AFP, Reuters and AA stories by the Daily News staff.