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June 14, 2012

Time running out for Annan’s Syria peace plan, Britain’s U.N. envoy says

http://www.jewishjournal.com/world/article/time_running_out_for_annans_syria_peace_plan_britains_un_envoy_says_20120

United Nations Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan in New York on June 7. Photo by REUTERS/Allison Joyce/Files

United Nations Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan in New York on June 7. Photo by REUTERS/Allison Joyce/Files

Britain’s U.N. envoy said on Thursday time was running out for international mediator Kofi Annan’s plan to bring peace to Syria and that the U.N. Security Council needs to take “much tougher action” to enforce the six-point strategy.

Violence has surged in recent weeks after an April 12 ceasefire negotiated by Annan failed to take hold. Annan’s plan calls for an end to all violence by government and rebel forces, aid access, and dialogue between the government and opposition aimed at starting a political transition for the country.

“We’re very focused on the moment on imposing, making live, the Kofi Annan six-point plan,” Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, told reporters. “We are calling on the Syrian regime to begin to implement the commitments ... So far it has not done so; instead it is brutally killing its people.”

“We’re seeing a series of massacres day after day right across Syria,” he said. “So time is clearly running out for the Kofi Annan plan but all our energies at the moment are focused on making that plan work.”

An uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and his family’s four-decade rule began as a peaceful pro-democracy movement in March 2011 but in the face of a crackdown by his forces has turned into an armed insurgency.

The United Nations says more than 10,000 people have been killed by government forces, while Syria says at least 2,600 members of the military and security forces have been killed by what it calls foreign-backed “Islamist terrorists.”

World powers are divided over the next move. Russia and China, both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council with veto power, have blocked efforts by Western powers to condemn Assad or call for his removal.

“It is time for the Security Council to take much tougher action to enforce the Kofi Annan plan,” Lyall Grant said.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Thursday that one option under consideration at the council was a no-fly zone, after increasing reports of Syrian forces using helicopter gunships to fire on rebel strongholds, and U.S. concern that Russia was selling Syria more helicopters.

Lyall Grant made clear they were not considering military action, which council diplomats say Russia would almost certainly veto.

“We’re not focusing on that sort of measure at the moment,” he said.

U.N. diplomats have said that the five permanent members of U.N. Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - would hold high-level talks on Syria on the sidelines of next week’s summit meeting of the Group of 20 club of powerful developed and developing nations in Mexico.

Among the issues they will discuss is a possible council resolution that would impose sanctions on Damascus, envoys say.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Bill Trott

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