Kamis, 12 April 2012

Syria update - despitesome violations , the ceasefire has generally been held so far. No evidence that Assad has withdrawn troops or tanks from any of the hotspots and the syrian Army probably will pounce at the slightest hint of Opposition action during the lull. The west expresses doubt that Annan plan will work or that Assad is serious while plotting next steps...

9.13am: Syria: In addition to the ceasefire, a key part of the Annan plan is withdrawal of government forces from centres of population. Reports so far suggest the regime has made little or no effort to do so.
Here is a description of the situation this morning from Avaaz (which the Guardian is not in a position to verify independently):
Despite the suspension of hostilities by the regime, activists report that there is no evidence of the withdrawal of heavy machinery and troops in any of the provinces. The complete withdrawal of heavy machinery (including artillery and tanks) and troops from residential areas is a ceasefire term.
A total of 80 tanks are still stationed in the area of Sahel Ghab in Hama. They are stationed in the following villages: Al Saqalbiyeh, Al Ankawi, Al Rasif, Kfar Nabouda, Ain Al Taqa, Al Ziyara, Tal Waset, Qastoon, Hialin, and Al Sharia. Most of the tanks are T52 or T72 tanks. BTR armoured vehicles are also deployed.
Citizen journalist Zaher spoke to Avaaz from Zabadani: "The tanks are still stationed on the outskirts of Zabadani, pointed in our direction. They could fire at us at any time."
In Deir Ezzor, the local coordination committee has reported that tanks are still deployed within the city centre. An independent activist claimed that the tanks had begun moving out of the city centre but residents in Deir Ezzor have not been able to go out in order to confirm their whereabouts. Both claims have not been verified.
Abu Wissam from Saqba, a town in the Damascus Suburbs, reported to Avaaz at 6:43 this morning: "The tanks are still in their positions. They've placed sandbags in front of the tanks, piled so high that you cannot see the tanks behind them. But it's been completely quiet. The ceasefire is being upheld but there has been no move by the army to withdraw. Tanks and heavy artillery are still deployed across East Ghouta in the towns of Saqba, Hamoryah, Arbeen and Jisreen."
Citizen journalist Abu Rami reported from Homs: "There has been no shooting and no shelling since 4:00 this morning… However, there does not seem to be any intention on the part of the army to withdraw from the city.
The checkpoints are still standing. Heavy artillery is still deployed and pointed at civilian neighbourhoods. Security forces and army troops are still deployed across the city. Snipers are still stationed atop high buildings.
The residents are happy about the ceasefire and hope that it will be maintained but there is some pessimism. We will have to see."
Abu Rami's testimony was recorded before the first instance of shooting in Homs at 6:25.
9.08am: Syria: The Assad regime has no intention of breaking the ceasefire and has already made several military drawbacks, Syrian foreign minister Jihad Makdissi told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
Makdissi said the Syrian government was prepared to enter a process to end the conflict but said President Assad retained the support of a "majority" of Syrians. He added that there could be no pre-conditions on any process, such as the departure of President Assad. He also said:
There is no reason to break the ceasefire at all ... What is important is everybody should abide by the terms of calm. [Kofi Annan] is asking cessation of violence by all parties, not only the Syrian government.
For our side we are fully committed for this ... We have a clear mechanism now in place, which is the Annan plan ... we are enabling him.
It is not about President Assad ... the realistic prospect is it is up to Syrians themselves to decide ... Anybody who wants to change the regime in Syria, they should not be forcing this, they should do it through democratic channels.
You have to be even-handed. The violence is mutual in Syria. I'm not saying we don't have problems in Syria ... What I am saying is the way out is evolution and not armed confrontation.
7.51am: Syria: Some comment from China's foreign ministry now which has called on the Syrian opposition to honour the ceasefire agreement, releasing a statement on its website.

China welcomes the government's relevant decision, which will help to ease tensions.
China also calls on the Syrian armed opposition to immediately cease fire and implement Annan's six-point proposal.
7.39am: Syria: Some updated information from the situation on the ground in Syria this morning.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said all flashpoints in the central provinces of Hama and Homs, the northern regions of Idlib and Aleppo, the capital, Damascus and its suburbs, as well as Daraa to the south and Deir el-Zour to the east were quiet.
"Nothing is happening in these hotspots so far," he said.
In Homs, activist Tarek Badrakhan said no explosions or shelling have been heard since 10pm Wednesday, but that army vehicles were still in the streets on Thursday.
7.32am: Syria: Meantime David Cameron who is currently on a tour of South East Asia has urged Russia and China to join the world in "tightening the noose" around the Syrian regime.
The Prime Minister told BBC Radio 5 that Bashar Assad's "deliberate flouting" of the latest peace plan showed that further action was needed.

I feel an immense sense of frustration because the world has come together behind this Kofi Annan plan. This is a plan, remember, that is not just backed by those of us who have been pushing for action on Syria, it's also backed by China and Russia.
And yet Assad is deliberately flouting it.
Now is the time to say to the Russians and Chinese, look at the man we are dealing with, look at the appalling way he is behaving.
We need to go back to the UN and tighten the pressure, tighten the noose.
7:25am: Syria: The 6am deadline for a ceasefire in Syria has passed and the situation remains quiet so far in compliance with Kofi Annan's UN-backed peace plan. However there remains widespread doubts from the international community that Syria will comply.
While Syria said on Wednesday that it would abide by the ceasefire it has reserved the right to respond to attacks and the main armed rebel group said it would not stop shooing if government forces attacked.
The Syrian army has also shown few signs of withdrawing troops from urban areas, something supposed to have begun on Tuesday under the ceasefire plan.
Annan had received written assurances from the Syrian foreign ministry that government troops would "cease all military fighting throughout Syrian territory as of 06:00 ... while reserving the right to respond proportionately to any attacks carried out by armed terrorist groups", his spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi said.
Meantime the US has said Syria's pledge has "little if any credibility" and that caveats placed by President Bashar al-Assad's government on the ceasefire are worrying.


US Considers Syria ‘Buffer Zone’

Turkey Sees Territory Capture as Answer to 'Refugee Crisis'

by Jason Ditz, April 11, 2012
Turkish officials have been pushing the idea for a long time, but US officials are saying that the latest round of talks on Syria have centered on invading northern Syria and conquering a “buffer zone” within it.
It would be correct to say this idea is getting another look in the last week or so,” one State Department official noted. Turkish officials are presenting this as a solution to the “overwhelming number of refugees” in recent days crossing into Syria.
The number of refugees is just 55,000 people crossing into four neighboring countries, positively tiny compared to the millions displaced in the 2003 US occupation of Iraq. This isn’t the real goal of the “buffer zone” plan at any rate.
Rather, officials have recently been floating the idea of establishing the region to create “breathing room” for the rebel fighters in the country, giving them a safe base of operations from which to launch attacks on the rest of the nation. At present many of the rebels are operating out of Turkey, with a smaller number in Lebanon. Crossing borders to launch attacks has been inconvenient for them, however, and hasthreatened to see the conflict spill over into neighboring regions.

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