The United States has strongly criticized the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad for not implementing an earlier agreed six-point peace plan proposed by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to end the current crisis, noting that Syrian forces still continued their assault on rebel strongholds.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news conference on Wednesday that the Assad regime "has not taken the necessary steps to implement" Annan's peace plan despite accepting it earlier.
Voicing concern over continued "arrests and violence," she stressed that Washington intends to "keep the pressure on Assad" who would be judged "on his actions, not his promises."
Noting that the international community has "not seen the promises that Assad made implemented," Nuland added: "It's incumbent on all of us to keep the pressure on Assad to meet the commitment that he's made, and that's our intention over the next few days."
Nuland's remarks followed similar sentiments expressed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday. She had reacted cautiously to Syria accepting Annan's peace plan on Wednesday, saying that Assad's earnestness in implementing the deal remained 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," Clinton told a State Department press conference.
Earlier on Tuesday, Annan, U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, had indicated that the Syrian government had accepted his peace plan to end the conflict in the Middle East country. Last week, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) had 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.
Annan's 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 statement approved last 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.
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. Separately, reconciliation talks aimed at uniting the divided Syrian Opposition is progressing in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
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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