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Action Group For Syria To Meet In Geneva On Saturday

Kofi Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy on the Syrian crisis, announced Wednesday that a ministerial level meeting of the Action Group for Syria will take place in Geneva on Saturday. The meeting will attempt to chart out ways to end the ongoing bloodshed in the unrest-hit Middle East nation.

"The objectives of the Action Group for Syria are to identify steps and measures to secure full implementation of the six-point plan and Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043, including an immediate cessation of violence in all its forms," Annan said in a statement.

He said the Action Group for Syria should also agree on "guidelines and principles for a Syrian-led political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people; and agree on actions that will make these objectives a reality on the ground."

Annan said he has already sent invitations to the Foreign Ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council - China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States of America - and Turkey, for Saturday's meeting.

Russia had confirmed on Tuesday, even before Annan officially announced the conference, that its foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will participate in the planned event. But the remaining four members of the UNSC, namely the United States, Britain, France, and China, are yet to confirm their participation.

Invitations have also been sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton; as well as to the Foreign Ministers of Iraq, as Chair of the Summit of the League of Arab States; Kuwait, as Chair of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the League of Arab States and Qatar, as Chair of the Follow-up Committee on Syria of the League of Arab States.

"I look forward to a productive meeting this weekend, where we can all agree on concrete actions to end the cycle of violence and bring peace and stability to the Syrian people," Annan said.

The UN Security Council's resolutions 2042 and 2043 dealt with the deployment of monitors, including those of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), amongst many others. Incidentally, the UN mission recently suspended the patrols of its observers due to the escalating violence on the ground.

The UN Security Council established UNSMIS in April to monitor the cessation of violence in Syria, as well as monitor and support the full implementation of Annan's peace plan. The plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.

The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad broke out 15 months ago. Nonetheless, the opposition claims that the actual death toll could be much higher.

Annan's previous efforts to bring the Syrian regime and the opposition to the negotiating table have failed. He believes that a unified effort by the international community could force the Syrian government as well as the opposition to begin political negotiations.

So far, the international stand on Syria has been divided, with China and Russia rejecting efforts by the western nations and their Arab allies to punish the Syrian regime at the UN. Both Moscow and Beijing remain opposed to any foreign military intervention to force a regime change in Syria. The two countries insist on a political dialogue between President Assad and his opponents for resolving the crisis.

by RTT Staff Writer

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