Pressure on Assad as envoy defects,West eyes sanctions |
Kuwait Times - 13 July, 2012
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad faced mounting pressure yesterday after a senior diplomat defected and Western powers drew up a 10-day ultimatum for Damascus even as Russia ruled out sanctions.
Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, announced he was joining a small but growing list of officials who have defected to the opposition as the regime battles a nearly 16-month-old uprising.
“I call on all free and worthy people in Syria, particularly in the military, to immediately rejoin the ranks of the revolution,” Fares said in a message aired on Al-Jazeera satellite channel.
The defector has since taken refuge in Qatar, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said yesterday. Fares, who served as provincial governor around Syria and held senior security and Baath party posts, hails from a prominent Sunni tribe from eastern Syria.
The foreign ministry in Damascus said Fares had been “discharged” after having made statements to the media “in contradiction with his duty, which consists of defending his country’s position.” He would be “legally prosecuted.”
In the latest clashes, troops shelled and then stormed Treimsa village in the central province of Hama, monitors and activists said, while 38 people were killed — 24 civilians, 11 soldiers and three rebels-across the country yesterday. Elsewhere, in the coastal province of Latakia, pro-regime militiamen shot dead seven people in their cars, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Lebanese security sources, meanwhile, said Syrian troops fired off dozens of shells in areas bordering northern and eastern Lebanon after firefights, adding that at least four people were injured inside Lebanese territory.
At the United Nations, Britain, France, Germany and the United States submitted a draft text that would give Assad 10 days to implement UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s ceasefire plan or face tough new sanctions.
If Security Council members approve it, the resolution would allow for non-military sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN charter if Syrian government forces keep up their offensive on cities.
Negotiations on the Western draft and a rival Russian resolution, which does not mention sanctions, started yesterday in New York. A vote must be held before July 20, when the mandate of the UN observer mission in Syria ends.
Russia made clear from the outset that sanctions were a “red line” for veto-wielding Moscow. “Anything can be negotiated but we do not negotiate this. This is a red line,” Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Igor Pankin told reporters at the Security Council after the first talks among key envoys.
Russia and China have previously twice used their powers as permanent members of the Security Council to veto resolutions which hinted at sanctions. The draft calls for an “immediate” end to violence by government and opposition forces and demands that President Assad’s troops return to barracks in line with the Annan plan and UN resolutions passed in April.
‘Clear consequences’ for regime- The resolution would renew the mandate of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria for 45 days, and calls on the mission to take on more political duties, moving away from monitoring a non-existent ceasefire.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on an Asian tour, coordinated with China on moves to support the peace plan drawn up by Annan, who has said the UN motion should include “clear consequences” for the regime if it fails to act.
“I had a good discussion on these issues with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang (Jiechi) today and we agreed to do all we can in New York to see the Geneva plan… be implemented,” she said yesterday.
World powers agreed in Geneva last month a plan for a transition in Syria which did not make an explicit call for Assad to quit power. However the West swiftly made clear it saw no role for Assad in a unity government.
“We do look to the Security Council and all its members including Russia to join us in a serious resolution that gives special envoy Kofi Annan what he needs, what he’s asking for and imposes real consequences on the regime for continuing to defy its obligations,” Clinton said.
The regime and the opposition publicly accept Annan’s peace plan, but fighting has raged on and rights monitors estimate that more than 17,000 Syrians have died since March 2011.
Turkey said yesterday it has found no traces of explosives on the wreckage of a fighter jet it has claimed was downed by Syria, raising new questions about last month’s incident that inflamed cross-border tensions.
Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, said that Syrian regime forces appear to have used Soviet-made cluster bombs against rebel hideouts in a mountainous region of Hama province.
Two videos posted online appear to show unexploded submunitions and a bomb canister in Jabal Shahshabu, northwest of the city of Hama, it said.-