Syrian Opposition Regime Says It's Too Late To Talk
This Saturday, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan is making a trip to meet with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to press for a political solution to end "all the violence and human rights violations and to initiate efforts to promote a peaceful solution," his spokesman said Friday.
Annan's two-day trip to Damascus, Syria to meet with the president is an attempt to end the conflict in which more than 7,500 people have been killed. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters Annan's priority is to immediately stop all fighting by government forces and opposition fighters, according to Washington Post.
But AP reported the opposition has been rejecting calls, calling the dialogue "pointless and out of touch after a year of violence."
- The dispute exposes the widening gap between opposition leaders who say only military aid can stop Assad's regime, and Western powers who fear more weapons will exacerbate the conflict.
"I hope that no one is thinking very seriously of using force in this situation," Annan said Thursday in Cairo. "I believe any further militarization would make the situation worse." He said he would present "realistic" solutions, but did not elaborate.
- Opposition leaders and activists rejected Annan's plans Friday, saying they ignore the nature of Assad's authoritarian regime as well as the thousands killed by security forces, many while peacefully calling for political reform.
By phone from Paris, the head of the Syrian National Council told The Associated Press that Annan was overlooking what the opposition considers the root of the problem: The regime's use of overwhelming military force to crush dissent.
- Activists in Syria also said it was too late to talk.
"If the popular leaders inside Syria have decided that there can be no dialogue with the killer who is attacking us with tanks and rockets, how can he call for dialogue?" said an activist from the central city of Homs, who gave his name only as Abu Bakr for fear his family would be targeted. "You can't negotiate with someone who has a gun to your head."
So far, the Syrian government has rejected the U.N. Nations relief official Valerie Amos's emergency aid proposal, which would give U.N. relief workers unrestricted access to stricken areas.
The New York Times described her firsthand experiences in Syria, where she witnessed horrific destruction during her two-day visit:
- “The Syrian government have asked for more time to look at the agreement,” said Ms. Amos, who also visited border camps in southern Turkey that are hosting more than 11,000 Syrian refugees.t
- Her comments came two days after Ms. Amos visited Baba Amr, a neighborhood in the Syrian city of Homs that was subjected to a withering monthlong siege by the government troops. Hundreds of people are believed to have been killed in the fighting, and international aid officials have warned that the city is facing a humanitarian crisis. Ms. Amos, who was the first international observer permitted by the Syrian government to visit the neighborhood since the end of the siege, said Baba Amr was largely deserted when she got there on Wednesday.
Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Friday to CNN they don't see support of Assad deteriorating anytime soon.
- "This leadership is going to fight very hard," one official said. "Assad is very much in charge of how Syria is handling this."
The officials said that Syria's crumbling economy could be the president's Achilles' heel, noting that fuel and food prices are significantly higher and unemployment has nearly doubled since 2010.
- But the intelligence officials said that as military and other officials have said publicly, the opposition is fragmented, with many devoted to defending just their neighborhoods. Al Qaeda, the officials said, does appear to be trying to surreptitiously infiltrate the groups, in their own effort to oust al-Assad.
The Arab and Western world are both trying to take tough action against Syria in the U.N. Security Council, where the call for Assad to transfer power was rejected by Russia and China.
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