U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday reacted cautiously to Syria accepting a six-point peace plan proposed by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to end the ongoing crisis, saying that President Bashar al-Assad's earnestness in implementing the deal remains to be seen.
"Given Assad's history of over-promising and under-delivering, that commitment must now be matched by immediate actions. We will judge Assad's sincerity and seriousness by what he does, not by what he says," she told a State Departemnt press conference.
"If he is ready to bring this dark chapter in Syria's history to a close, he can prove it by immediately ordering regime forces to stop firing and begin withdrawing from populated areas," she said.
Clinton urged Assad to allow in humanitarian aid into the violence-hit country and to start preparing for a democratic transition. She also called on the Opposition groups to "come forward with a unified position, a vision of the kind of Syria they are wishing to build."
Her remarks came hours after Annan, U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, indicated that the Syrian government had accepted a six-point plan proposed by him to end the conflict in the Middle East country.
A statement issued by Annan's office said he "views this as an important initial step that could bring an end to the violence and the bloodshed, provide aid to the suffering, and create an environment conducive to a political dialogue that would fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people."
"Annan has stressed that implementation will be key, not only for the Syrian people, who are caught in the middle of this tragedy, but also for the region and the international community as a whole. As the Syrian government acts on its commitments, Annan will move urgently to work with all parties to secure implementation of the plan at all levels," the statement added.
The U.N. Security Council (UNSC) last week fully endorsed the set of proposals that Annan submitted during his visit to Damascus earlier this month, and called on the Syrian government and the Opposition to immediately implement it.
His proposals seek to stop the violence and killings, give access to humanitarian agencies, release detainees, ensure freedom of movement for journalists, respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully, and start an inclusive political dialogue to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people.
Although a UNSC statement is less forceful than a legally binding resolution, it often acts as a first step toward tougher action. The UNSC statement approved on Wednesday did not condemn the Syrian regime or set a specific time-table for a political transition, apparently to get the support of China and Russia.
China and Russia vetoed a West-backed resolution endorsing an Arab League plan for Syria when it was put to vote at the UNSC on February 4. Incidentally, the two nations had jointly vetoed a Western resolution condemning repression in Syria in October.
In an effort to ensure continued Russian support for his mission, Annan had parleys with President Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Sunday. Speaking to reporters later, he thanked Medvedev and the Russian government for their support for his mission, and said he would be rely on the President's continued support and advice for going forward.
Currently there are two international missions in the Syrian capital addressing the crisis: a team of experts following up on Annan's six-point proposal, and a humanitarian team assessing the humanitarian needs in the country.
Syria has been witnessing a popular uprising against Assad whose government continues to use heavy artillery and armed troops to put down the unrest. According to the United Nations, more than 9,000 people have been killed since the unrest began a year ago. The Assad regime, however, blames "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign mercenaries for the violence.
by RTT Staff Writer
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