Wednesday 14 March 2012

Deafening cacophony of Syria news & statements

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has rebuffed the efforts of the joint UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan to mediate an end to the violence, three U.S. administration officials told CNN on Tuesday. The sources said Assad replied to Annan's proposals by saying he doesn't recognize Annan as the Arab League's representative and he will not do anything until the opposition lays down its arms.

“I’m expecting to hear from the Syrian authorities today (Tuesday) since I left concrete proposals with them to consider, and once I receive their answer we will know how to react,” said the joint UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan in a statement Tuesday The Syrian people have gone through lot, they deserve better. I have made it clear at the beginning of my mission that my main preoccupation is the welfare of the Syrian people and the Syrian nation… I know that the strong international community support, the whole world is coming together, is working with us to resolve this situation in Syria, and with goodwill and determination I am hopeful we will make progress.”

Syria's leader "is today behaving like a murderer and will have to answer for himself at the International Criminal Court," says French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "We must obtain humanitarian corridors, and for that we must unblock the Russian veto and Chinese veto" at the UN Security Council, he told Europe-1 radio on Wednesday. "The French army can in no way intervene" in Syria without UN mandate.

Press Briefing by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday:
Q. Is there a tipping point in Syria that would cause the conversations to shift from humanitarian aid and sanctions to more intervention, more aggressive intervention?
MR. CARNEY:  Well, it is certainly our position that providing arms -- which is one topic that I get asked about and others have discussed -- is not a move that we’re considering right now because we believe it could heighten and prolong the violence in Syria.  We are also still learning about the composition of the armed opposition in Syria and that’s part of the process that we’re undergoing right now as we engage with our allies on the matter, on the Syrian issue.  So it is our position that we do not want to contribute to the further militarization of Syria because that could lead down a very dangerous road.

Haitham al-Maleh, a former judge and long-standing dissident against four decades of Assad family rule, was joined by opposition leader Kamal al-Labwani and human rights lawyer Catherine al-Talli in announcing their resignation from the opposition umbrella Syrian National Council.
“I have resigned from the SNC because there is a lot of chaos in the group and not a lot of clarity over what they can accomplish right now. We have not gotten very far in working to arm the (Free Syrian Army) rebels,” Maleh said.

The scale of torture in Syria since an antigovernment uprising began a year ago amounts to crimes against humanity and is the worst the country has experienced in 30 years, says an Amnesty International report released Tuesday. In at least 276 cases documented by Amnesty International, prisoners have died as a result of torture. The human rights group has repeatedly called for involvement by the International Criminal Court. Some victims of torture were younger than 18, Amnesty reported. The torture carried out appears to be part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population as part of Syrian government policy to crush dissent.

Syrian forces have placed landmines near the borders with Lebanon and Turkey in recent weeks and months, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday, based on reports and confirmations from witnesses and Syrian de-miners. Civilian casualties have already resulted, the witnesses said. De-miners associated with the opposition have cleared both antipersonnel and anti-vehicle mines of Soviet/Russian origin. Syria has not joined the Mine Ban Treaty.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarks at Tuesday’s opening session in Washington of the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference:
“… I often tell leaders in this region that the United States has been working on our democracy for more than 235 years. We’re still in the process of trying to perfect it. But we have to make steady progress. That’s not an excuse for either standing still or going backwards. Engaging with Islamist parties is going to be a new but necessary effort on the part of the United States, which we are undertaking at every level. Now obviously, not all countries in the region are embracing the mantle of reform. We continue to apply pressure on Assad and his regime in Syria to stop the brutality, and we work with the opposition and like-minded countries to try to help them be in a position to be part of a successful political transition…”

Daily Press Briefing by spokesperson Victoria Nuland at the State Department on Tuesday:
Q. Yes. You’ve been saying that arming the Syrian opposition is not helpful now. But in the meantime, you always remind people that no option is off the table. Implicitly, that includes arming the opposition. Can you elaborate about the condition under which you would go openly for this option?

David Petraeus, head of the US Central Intelligence Agency, met Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, on Tuesday for closed-door talks focusing on the crisis across the border in Syria. Also on Tuesday, at least 489 Syrians crossed into Turkey fleeing violence from Syria's northwestern town of Idlib as the Syrian military’s operations continue in the city. This marks the highest number of Syrian refugees to cross into Turkey in a single day. The Syrian military has recaptured the northern opposition stronghold of Idlib near the Turkish border, a major base that military defectors had held for months.