Human Rights – Despite attempts by UN Envoy Kofi Annan to facilitate talks between President Bashar Assad and the opposition, the fighting continues and more deaths are being reported. Shells rained down on the northern region of Idlib today as armed rebels tried to fend off Syrian troops as they entered the town.
According to activists, after the regime re-captured Baba Amr, it turned its sights on Idlib which has been inundated with military reinforcements this week, including “tanks and armored personnel carriers.”
Dozens of deaths have been reported in the last few days and many fear that regime is “planning an all-out offensive” in the city which may trigger a repeat of last month’s “bloody siege […] that captured a restive part of the city of Homs.”
While Annan “made proposals on stopping the violence and the killing, access for humanitarian agencies, release of detainees, and the start of political dialogue” in Damascus, the battle raged on in Idlib and families and innocent children were forced to flee the ravaged area.
According to SANA, the state news agency, Assad, who blames the conflict not on “protesters seeking change,” but on terrorists “acting out a foreign conspiracy,” indicated that “any political dialogue was doomed to fail ‘as long as there are armed terrorist groups that work to spread anarchy and destabilize the country.’”
The opposition, too, has declined the offer for talks, saying that “it is impossible to talk to Assad’s regime after a crackdown that the U.N. estimates has killed more than 7,500 people.” Though the activists estimate the deaths at more than 8,000.
At a session of the Arab League in Cairo today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Layrov answered accusations that Russia “was giving Assad diplomatic cover to intensify his crackdown,” because it vetoed the draft of a U.N. Security Council resolution supporting an Arab League peace plan.
Russia is “not protecting any regimes. […] We are protecting international law … We are not looking for a special prize or geopolitical interest here,” Layrov said.
We are trying to “promote a peaceful resolution to Syria’s crisis and that the immediate mission now is to halt violence and enable humanitarian assistance to reach those in need in Syria,” he added.
Qatar’s prime minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, however, disagreed with, and criticized, Layrov’s statement saying that there “is systematic genocide by the Syrian government.”
The latest fighting comes after reports that some people have been abandoning Assad’s regime and joining the opposition, not to mention the fact that some have defected including the deputy oil minister.
So far the conflict has “driven 2,000 refugees over the Lebanese border [and] displaced up to 200,000 Syrians.”
Annan plans to meet with Assad again on Sunday before leaving Syria for Qatar.
Photo credit Joyfull.