EU 'extremely concerned' with Syria violence

EU foreign policy chief calls on all parties in Syria to implement Kofi Annan's six point plan and cease the violence.

    EU 'extremely concerned' with Syria violence
    UN peace monitors are already in Syria, but the USA are considering to end the mission [AFP]

    The European Union is "extremely concerned" about the continuing violence in Syria, despite a ceasefire and the presence of UN monitors on the ground, the EU foreign policy chief, has said.

    Catherine Ashton urged in a statement on Friday "all parties in Syria to cease immediately all forms of violence."

    "I am extremely concerned about the continued violence in Syria in violation of the ceasefire which should have come into effect on 12 April and despite the presence on the ground of UN observers."

    Ashton called on the Syrian government to ensure that the ceasefire holds, and "it must also release detainees, provide access for journalists, ensure freedom to demonstrate peacefully and allow humanitarian assistance."

    She added: "It is crucial that all efforts are made to expedite the deployment of the UN observation mission to Syria (UNSMIS).

    Ashton's comments comes a day after Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general warned that the Syrian government was "in contravention" of a UN and Arab League-backed peace plan.

    Ban demanded that Damascus complies with the peace plan brokered by international peace envoy Kofi Annan without delay.

    On Friday, Amnesty International also said it had received the names of 362 people reportedly killed in Syria since UN observers deployed last week to monitor the peace deal.

    The United States, which has repeatedly voiced fear that President Bashar al-Assad would use the official truce to attack the opposition, said it was ready to consider an end to the UN monitoring mission before its initial 90-day period is over.

    Syria has "failed to meet its objectives because Assad isn't living up to his half of the bargain",the US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

    Damascus attacks

    On Friday a suicide bomber killed nine people and injured dozens in the Syrian capital, Damascus, according to state media.

    The SANA news agency said the victims of Friday's blast in al-Midan district included civilians and law enforcement personnel.

    Al Jazeera's Rula Amin reports from Beirut

    Opposition activists said the blast struck opposite the Zain al-Abideen mosque, which was under heavy security for Friday prayers, and where regular protests against President Bashar al-Assad have been held in the last year.

    Syrian TV aired footage of white smoke billowing from under a bridge as people streamed out of a mosque. The streets were stained with blood. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

    Nader al-Halqi the Syrian health minister said seven police officers were among the dead.

    At least 30 people were wounded in the bombing that occurred as worshippers were leaving the mosque following noon prayers, according to the broadcaster.

    A resident who spoke to security officials at the scene told the Reuters news agency that a man had approached soldiers near the mosque and detonated a bomb belt when challenged. 

    A loud blast was also heard in the capital's al-Sinaa district on Friday, near a garage used by government buses and shabiha, pro-Assad militiamen tasked with preventing demonstrations.

    A third explosion, in the Adawi area, near the agricultural department of Damascus University, was confirmed both by pro-government media and opposition activists.

    'Action picking up'

    The government blames armed groups for the recent blasts, but some opposition leaders accuse the government of carrying out the attacks as a way to tarnish the uprising.

    On Friday, activists reported that large protests were held in the northern city of Aleppo and many towns and villages, including in the central region of Hama and the northern province of Idlib.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three people, including a child, were killed as government forces opened fire to disperse protests, in Damascus province, Aleppo, and Deir al-Zor.

    Three members of the security forces and a defector were also killed in clashes across the country, the group said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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