Syria opposition meets as UN slams new violations

Exiled opposition groups tried to forge a common vision for a transition in Syria as they met in Cairo as the UN rights chief accused both the regime and opposition of "serious" violations.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also charged that weapons supplied to the government and opposition were escalating the conflict, warning that "further militarisation" must be avoided.

She spoke as at least 30 people were reportedly killed in new bloodshed across Syria.

Meanwhile, members of Syria's opposition met behind closed doors in Cairo to chart a common vision after criticising a blueprint for transition agreed by the major powers at the weekend.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, who chaired the two-day meeting attended by around 250 opposition figures, urged the factions "not to waste this opportunity" and to "unite."

Arabi also stressed the need for "a pluralist democratic system that does not discriminate between Syrians."

Nasser al-Qudwa, deputy to UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan, echoed Arabi's call, telling the opposition to "unify your vision and your performance."

"This is not a choice, but a necessity if the opposition wants to gain the trust of its people in Syria," Qudwa told the meeting which was also attended by the foreign ministers of Turkey, Iraq and Kuwait.

Rebel fighters and activists based in Syria said they were boycotting the meeting, denouncing it as a "conspiracy" and criticising the agenda which they said rejects calls for military intervention.

The statement, signed by the rebel Free Syrian Army and "independent" activists, said the meeting served the interests of the Damascus regime's allies Russia and Iran.

It also slammed the meeting for "ignoring the question of buffer zones protected by the international community, humanitarian corridors, an air embargo and the arming of rebel fighters."

In New York, UN rights chief Pillay briefed the UN Security Council before telling reporters that the violence was being fuelled by arms supplies to both the government and opposition.

"Any further militarisation of the conflict must be avoided at all costs," she said.

While Pillay did not name countries, Russia and Iran are key suppliers to President Bashar al-Assad's government, and Gulf states, notably Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have given weapons to the increasingly well-armed opposition.

Pillay said the government and opposition were carrying out "serious" new rights violations including attacks on hospitals and renewed an appeal for the council to refer the conflict to the International Criminal Court.

And she told the council that the violence, now in its 16th month, was becoming "increasingly sectarian," while hundreds of people remain trapped in Deir Ezzor, in the east, and in the Old City district of Homs "because of the increasing use of heavy weaponry, shelling and ongoing armed clashes."

With the United Nations considering the future of its observers in Syria, Pillay said she told the council it must "support and strengthen" the UN Supervision Mission in Syria so that it can "effectively" monitor events.

On Monday, the army kept up its bombardment of rebel neighbourhoods of the central city of Homs as violence killed at least 30 people across the country, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

More than 16,500 people have been killed in violence since the uprising against Assad's rule broke out in March last year, according to the Britain-based watchdog.

An activist in Homs told AFP via Skype that many civilians remained trapped in the shelling of the Jurat al-Shiah, Khaldiyeh and Old City neighbourhoods of Syria's third-largest city.

"Many neighbourhoods of Homs are still under siege, and it is really hard for us to get food or medicines in," said Khaled al-Tellawy.

"Field doctors are amputating the limbs of the injured because they have no equipment to treat them with, and they can't be smuggled out."

In the north, Turkey said that 85 Syrian soldiers defected after fleeing across its border. Among them were a general and other ranking officials, Anatolia news agency cited officials as saying.

World powers meeting in Geneva at the weekend agreed a transition plan for Syria, in a compromise with Russia and China that was branded a failure by both the opposition and Syrian state media.

The plan did not make any explicit call for Assad to cede power, as urged by Western governments, after Russia and China insisted Syrians themselves must decide how the transition unfolds.

The opposition Syrian National Council said on Sunday that "no initiative can receive the Syrian people's backing unless it specifically demands the fall of Bashar al-Assad and his clique."

But US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the plan contained a clause that members of a transitional governing body to run Syria had to be agreed "by mutual consent."

"So from our perspective... there is no way that Assad, his cronies or anybody with blood on their hands is going to meet the mutual consent standard," she told reporters.

"This express, written assurance gives them ironclad guarantees that they will be able to veto people like Assad."

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on the international community to enforce a political solution in Syria while reiterating there would be no military intervention.

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.

  • Philippines accuses China of turning water cannon on its fishing boats

    Filipino activists denounced China's coast guard on Tuesday for turning water cannon on Philippine fishing boats in disputed waters, near where hundreds of Filipino and American Marines landed on a beach in a mock assault. The presidential palace in Manila said China's coast guard used water cannon on Monday to drive away a group of Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, damaging some of their wooden boats. …

  • U.S. says if China used water cannons on Philippine boats, would be provocative'

    The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that if reports that China used water cannon son Philippine fishing boats in disputed waters are accurate, it would be a provocative step. Filipino activists have accused China's coast guard of turning water cannons on civilian boats in the disputed area on Monday. …

  • Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash
    Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash

    Manny Pacquiao's face is on shirts, dolls and postage stamps, his life story is playing in movie houses and millions are getting ready to party as the Philippine boxing hero's "fight of the century" nears. Pacmania is sweeping the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people ahead of the May 2 Las Vegas bout against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather to decide who is the best boxer of their generation. Of course, it's the fight of the century," Manila film producer Lucky Blanco told AFP. …

  • ‘Racist remark vs Pinays not reflective of HK sentiment’
    ‘Racist remark vs Pinays not reflective of HK sentiment’

    The Philippine consulate general in Hong Kong believes that the “racist” statement of legislator Regina Ip against Filipina domestic helpers in Hong Kong is not reflective of the general sentiments of the Hong Kong community. Hong Kong is home to more than 173,00 Filipinos working mostly as household service workers. “They have left their loved ones back home to earn a decent living taking care of Hong Kong families. This, in turn, has engendered positive impact on both the quality of life …

  • SWS: Gov’t rating sinks to record low
    SWS: Gov’t rating sinks to record low

    “The Aquino administration is firmly determined to carry on and complete priority programs in all five pillars of the Philippine development plan, to ensure that reforms will be sustained by strengthened public institutions, to tread the righteous path and ensure that good governance becomes the norm at all levels of government, and to sustain and make permanent the gains from the transformation of mindsets and institutions,” Coloma added. Lawmakers expressed belief yesterday that the Aquino …

  • ‘Pacmania’ sweeping the nation
    ‘Pacmania’ sweeping the nation

    Manny Pacquiao’s face is on shirts, dolls and postage stamps, his life story is playing in movie houses, and millions are getting ready to party as the Philippine boxing hero’s “fight of the century” nears. Pacmania is sweeping the nation of 100 million people ahead of the May 2 Las Vegas bout against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. to decide who is the best boxer of their generation. …

  • House committee to put Bangsamoro police under PNP
    House committee to put Bangsamoro police under PNP

    The House ad hoc committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will put police forces in the envisioned new autonomous Muslim region under the Philippine National Police (PNP), and not under the regional chief minister. “We will delete the provision in the draft BBL giving the chief minister operational, administrative and disciplinary control over police forces in the region,” Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, committee chairman, said in a television interview. He said under …

  • Phl to seek more US military aid
    Phl to seek more US military aid

    The Philippines said yesterday it would soon ask the United States for more military equipment and training to build its defenses, as it faces Chinese “aggressiveness” in disputed waters. As hundreds of Filipino and American Marines simulated an amphibious assault to reclaim territory from invaders during annual war games, Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said he was drafting a “wish list” for US aid. Catapang said the Philippines would ask for “equipment and training” when …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options