Annan urges Assad to 'act now' as West expels envoys

International envoy Kofi Annan urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday to "act now" to end 15 months of bloodshed, warning that the country had reached a "tipping point" as Western governments ordered out its top diplomats.

The apparently coordinated expulsion orders issued by the European Union, the United States and other governments, including Australia, Canada and Switzerland, was in response to the killing of at least 108 people, nearly half of them children, during an assault by pro-government forces last week.

Washington said it hoped the outcry over the deaths near the central town of Houla on Friday and Saturday would draw a change of heart from Damascus ally Moscow, which has previously blocked tougher UN action against Assad's regime.

"We are at a tipping point," Annan said after his talks with the Syrian leader aimed at rescuing his troubled peace blueprint, that was supposed to begin with a ceasefire from April 12 that has never taken hold.

"The Syrian people do not want the future to be one of bloodshed and division. Yet the killings continue and the abuses are still with us today," the former UN chief said.

"I appealed to him for bold steps now -- not tomorrow, now -- to create momentum for the implementation of the plan.

"This means that the government, and all government-backed militias, could stop all military operations and show maximum restraint."

Annan flew into Damascus on Monday hours after the UN Security Council adopted a statement condemning heavy shelling of residential areas by government forces during the killings in Houla.

The Syrian authorities have repeatedly insisted that the lion's share of the blame for the deaths lies with armed rebels, a position Assad restated in his talks with Annan on Tuesday.

"The success of the Annan plan depends on the end of terrorist acts and those who support them and the smuggling of weapons," Assad was quoted as saying.

But UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said that there were "strong" suspicions that a militia loyal to Assad had a hand in the killings.

"There is strong suspicion that the Shabiha were involved in this tragedy in Houla," Ladsous told reporters at the UN headquarters.

He added that the number of victims from an artillery barrage "points to responsibility of the government" as only Assad's forces have tanks and other artillery.

Washington joined an array of Western governments in ordering out Syria's few remaining senior diplomats in protest at the killings.

"We hold the Syrian government responsible for this slaughter of innocent lives," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, informing charge d'affaires Zuheir Jabbour that he had 72 hours to leave the country.

French President Francois Hollande said Paris would also host a new meeting in July of the Friends of Syria group formed by Damascus's Arab and Western critics.

He said he did not rule out military intervention, provided it were approved by the UN Security Council.

"An armed intervention is not excluded on the condition that it is carried out with respect to international law, meaning after deliberation by the United Nations Security Council," he said in a television interview.

-- 'Turning Point?' --

----------------------

Russia, which has twice used its veto powers at the Security Council to block tougher action against Assad's regime, called for an "objective and impartial" UN-led probe into the killings.

The United States said it hoped the results of the investigation would mark a "turning point" in Russia's stance towards it longtime ally.

Washington welcomes the fact "that the Russians are willing to have a full investigation because we think it's undisputable what that investigation is going to show," the State Department spokeswoman said.

"It's going to show that these were regime-sponsored thugs who went into villages, went into homes and killed children at point blank-range and their parents," Nuland said.

"From that perspective, is this going to be a turning point in Russian thinking? We hope so."

The opposition Syrian National Council welcomed the expulsion of diplomats but called on Western governments to go further and push for a UN Security Council resolution authorising the use of force.

The world body should "adopt a resolution under Chapter VII (of the UN Charter) allowing the use of necessary force in order to put a stop to the genocide and the murders committed by the regime's militias," the SNC said.

At least 30 people were killed in new violence on Tuesday as Annan held his talks in Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

More than 13,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians, since the uprising against Assad's regime erupted in March last year, according to the Britain-based watchdog.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • ToyotaPH continues it’s strong sales in February
    ToyotaPH continues it’s strong sales in February

    Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) sustains its strong sales in its February performance. Toyota’s strong performance last month was due to the  high demand of the Vios, with sales of 2,012 units and of course the rest of Toyota’s line up such as the Fortuner, Innova, Wigo, Hilux, Avanza and Corolla Altis. Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus, recorded 60 units last month. …

  • No apology, but Noy seeks understanding
    No apology, but Noy seeks understanding

    There was no apology, but President Aquino yesterday expressed regret, took “full responsibility” and appealed to the nation for “deepest understanding” for the Jan. 25 Mamasapano raid in which dozens died, including 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos. “To every Filipino who has felt failure or has been hurt because of the events related to this operation, it is with abiding humility that I ask for your deepest understanding,” Aquino said in a speech before the 246 new graduates of …

  • MVP on endorsement: Thanks, I’m no politician
    MVP on endorsement: Thanks, I’m no politician

    Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan is grateful for Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s praise and presidential endorsement, but says he is not a politician. In an interview on the sidelines of the launch of the search for The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines 2015 Wednesday night, Pangilinan dismissed the idea of running for president in the 2016 elections. “I’m not a politician, I’m just an ordinary business person,” he added. Santiago endorsed Pangilinan as a presidential candidate …

  • No Lenten break in operations vs lawless groups – AFP
    No Lenten break in operations vs lawless groups – AFP

    The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is not suspending its offensive against the Abu Sayyaf, New People’s Army (NPA) and other lawless groups during the Holy Week, an official said yesterday. Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP public affairs office chief, said the AFP leadership is leaving it up to area and division commanders whether to raise the alert status in preparation for the Holy Week. Those deployed in areas where there are ongoing law enforcement operations against terrorist groups …

  • Probe harassment vs human rights lawyer, CA orders AFP
    Probe harassment vs human rights lawyer, CA orders AFP

    The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to investigate a human rights lawyer’s claim of harassment, including surveillance, by several military officers. In a 22-page decision, the former Special Sixth Division of the appellate court granted the petition for writ of amparo and habeas data of Maria Catherine Dannug-Salucon. The CA ordered the AFP to identify the officers behind the surveillance and file charges against them. The CA ruling said …

  • Noy vows to dismantle bata-bata system in PNP
    Noy vows to dismantle bata-bata system in PNP

    President Aquino vowed yesterday to dismantle the culture of factionalism or the bata-bata system within the Philippine National Police as he continued the search for the next PNP chief. Speaking at the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) commencement exercises here, the President said the country needed solidarity among leaders and members of the police force so that the policemen would be effective protectors of Filipinos. “Our challenge to the next chief of our national police force: …

  • Envoy to expats: Retire, invest in Phl
    Envoy to expats: Retire, invest in Phl

    Retire and invest in real estate in the Philippines, especially now that the country has made it to the top 10 retirement destinations in the world. This is the message being spread by the Philippine embassy in Washington, with Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. leading the refrain in meetings with various Filipino-American communities in the US. In his talks, Cuisia said that an affordable cost of living as well as warm climate and people are just some of the things that make the Philippines a top …

  • PNPA spotlight falls on Ampatuan grandson
    PNPA spotlight falls on Ampatuan grandson

    The stigma of being a namesake of the principal suspect in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre did not prevent Cadet First Class Andal Ampatuan III from entering and graduating from the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA). Ampatuan III, now with a rank of police inspector, is a grandson of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. The younger Ampatuan was among the 246 graduates of the PNPA “Lakandula” Class of 2015. Ampatuan III’s mother is Bai Rebecca Ampatuan, a daughter of the …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options