THE SYRIAN CRISIS AND THE ANNAN PLAN: A COMMENT
"Reuters - Syria has accepted a U.N.-sponsored peace plan, international envoy Kofi Annan said on Tuesday, as troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad raided rebel forces who have taken refuge across the border in Lebanon. The United States reacted skeptically to Annan's announcement, saying it would judge Assad's sincerity in agreeing to the peace plan by what he did and not by what he said, given his record of "over-promising and under-delivering...."
Annan, who represents the United Nations and the Arab League, said through a spokesman that Assad had accepted the basic terms of a peace plan which calls for national dialogue but does not hinge on his leaving office.
However, Annan said earlier on a visit to China that "this is going to be a long difficult task."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reacted coolly. "Given Assad's history of over-promising and under-delivering, that commitment must now be matched by immediate actions," she told reporters in Washington.
"We will judge Assad's sincerity and seriousness by what he does, not by what he says," she said, calling on him to order his forces to stop firing and start withdrawing from populated areas. Western and Arab leaders are due to meet in Istanbul on April 1 to discuss a political transition, and Clinton joined the Arab League and Turkey in pressing various wings of the Syrian opposition to unite.
"They must be able to clearly demonstrate a commitment to including all Syrians and protecting the rights of all Syrians," she said. "We are going to be pushing them very hard to present such a vision in Istanbul...."
Annan said his plan calls for withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from population centers, humanitarian assistance being allowed in unimpeded, release of prisoners, freedom of movement and access for journalists to go in and out. The United Nations estimates more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria's upheaval over the past year, U.N. Middle East envoy Robert Serry told the Security Council. Syrian authorities blame foreign-backed terrorists for the violence and say 3,000 soldiers and police have been killed....
Russia and China have shielded Assad from Security Council condemnation by vetoing two Western-backed resolutions over the bloodshed, but approved a Security Council statement this week endorsing Annan's mission. Chinese Prime Wen Jiabao told Annan in Beijing that "the efforts to seek a solution to the Syrian crisis are at a critical juncture. We do believe that your mediation efforts will lead to progress in seeking a solution to the Syrian issue".
The opposition has so far rejected Assad's calls for dialogue saying it is too late. The crackdown has angered Arab countries including former allies Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which favor arming the rebels".
Erika Solomon & Oliver Holmes. "Annan says Syria accepts Peace Plan, U.S. skeptical."
Reuters.27 March 2012, in www.reuters.com.
The Annan Plan, whatever the purposes of its author (purely humanitarian of course) seems to my mind, merely an exercise in white washing the fact that the Assad regime will under no circumstances retreat from retaining power in that wretched country. Indeed, according to to-day's New York Times, fighting was ongoing in different sectors of the country 1. Given the fact that Assad has publicly stated that his acceptance of the plan is dependent upon the opposition ceasing any military activities and giving-up their weapons, I for one cannot for the life of me, understand how Annan, et. al., would expect anything positive to come of his so-called 'Peace Plan' 2. Obviously, the plan, such as it is, is a God-send to both Moskva and Peking, who have taken a battering diplomatically speaking from most of the Arab World. With this plan, both powers can contend with a straight face that with Assad's acceptance, any continuation of the fighting is the fault of not the Assad regime, but its opponents and foreign backers. In short, the Annan Plan, whether or not Annan realizes it, is truly a Russian & Chinese diplomats answer to an early Christmas. Unfortunately, one can not say the same for the poor people of Syria.
1. Anne Barnard. "Syrian Fighting Flares Ahead of Talks." The New York Times.30 March 2012, in www.nytimes.com.
2. Ibid. See also the following for how much in favor of Assad continuation in power, is the Annan Plan: "Syrian Tremors at the Arab Summit." The Council on Foreign Relations. 29 March 2012, in www.cfr.org.