Annan fears ‘civil war’ looming in Syria
NEW YORK UN-ARAB League envoy Kofi Annan told the UN Security Council on Tuesday his Syria peace plan may be the “last chance” to avoid civil war as the government pursues attacks and the torture of prisoners.
Annan said government forces “continue to press against the population” despite a cessation of hostilities that started on April 12, according to diplomats at a closed briefing given by the envoy.
The attacks are more “discreet” because of the presence of UN monitors, added Annan, who briefed the 15- nation council on his efforts to get President Bashar al Assad to implement a sixpoint peace plan.
Annan said his plan is possibly “the last chance to avoid civil war.” He stressed however that his peace bid was not an “open-ended” opportunity for the Syrian leader who has been battling an ever bitter uprising for 14 months.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon said on Monday the international community is now in a “race against time” to head off a civil war in Syria, where the UN says well over 9,000 people have been killed.
Annan said he was particularly concerned that torture, mass arrests and other human rights violations are “intensifying,” according to diplomats at the meeting.
People in Syria known for “advocating non-violence” in the uprising against Assad have been detained in recent days and weeks, he said.
The envoy said Assad bears “primary responsibility” for ending the military campaign and “creating an environment conducive to a political process” by withdrawing troops and heavy weapons from cities.
The UN Security Council agreed to send 300 unarmed military observers to Syria to monitor the cessation of hostilities but the death toll has continued to pile up. The UN says more than 9,000 people have died in Syria. The observer mission has an initial 90-day mandate running to mid- July, but the United States and other western nations have expressed doubts that it will be extended.
Annan and UN leader Ban have criticized Monday’s legislative election in Syria which the opposition boycotted as a sham operation by Assad’s government. “The election did not take place in the context of a calm political dialogue. A credible political process must start,” Assad said. Herve Ladsous, the head of the UN peacekeeping department which has overseen the observer mission, also told the Security Council that Assad’s forces are carrying out “more discreet military operations” and was conducting “large-scale arrests.” More than 60 observers are now in Syria and UN officials say there has been a reduction in the use of heavy weapons in places where the observers are present. The Security Council ended divisions over the Syria crisis to set up the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS).