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Inside Story
Will more diplomacy save Syria?
As the UN-backed ceasefire deadline passes with little sign of compliance, we ask if the peace plan will collapse.
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2012 11:13

As the UN-backed deadline for Syrian government forces to withdraw from towns and cities passes, there is little indication on the ground of compliance from the regime of Bashar al-Assad. 

"Diplomacy has not saved the 160 people who supposedly died yesterday .... The violence hasn't finished today .... Annan's mission is not about regime change, it's about his plan and his plan is supposedly going to stop violence - and it's not working."

James Denselow, a Middle East analyst

Violence continues and opposition activists say more than 800 Syrians have been killed since al-Assad accepted Kofi Annan's peace proposals on March 27.

Damascus had agreed to the deadline of April 10, but on Sunday demanded further written guarantees from the armed opposition groups.

Walid al-Muallem, the Syrian foreign minister, is in Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. He said that a complete ceasefire would only happen once a team of international observers arrived and added that the government could not fulfill its side of the plan if opposition groups were getting arms from outside the country.

He insisted that the opposition is to blame for the continuing violence, saying: "Despite all these positive steps by the Syrian government, we've noticed the escalating military operations by the armed groups and their spread into other provinces."

"You cannot stop all these clashes immediately, it needs patience and efforts - real efforts .... Russia really wants to stop the violence and really supports political changes, political reforms in Syria .... We are against changing the regime .... I think one cannot change a regime by military force from inside, because Syria possesses a huge, good-equipped army, and one insurgent group cannot overthrow an army-defended government. Any foreign military intervention in Syria is not accepted."

Vyacheslav Matuzov, a former Russian diplomat

Lavrov reiterated calls for the crisis to be brought to an end without any foreign interference.

The two foreign ministers emphasised that the focus now needs to be on negotiating an international observer mission - something opposition groups say is an attempt by al-Assad to manipulate the process.

Even as both sides and their backers say they are dedicated to peace and that their focus is on the diplomatic process, critics say that there are few indications that an end to the violence in Syria is near.

Can the peace plan still succeed? Is this the last chance for diplomacy? And what further role can Russia play in resolving the conflict?

To discuss these issues, Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, is joined by guests: Ammar Waqqaf, a member of the Syrian Social Club, a group that promotes regime reform rather than regime change; Vyacheslav Matuzov, a former Russian diplomat who is the chairman of Russia's Society of Friendship and Business Cooperation with Arabic Countries; and James Denselow, a Middle East analyst at Kings College London.

"The Annan peace plan stipulates not only guarantees by the government to stop violence, it is also seeking commitments from the opposition and relevant figures and parties. I think the Syrian government is saying: 'I cannot play ball on my own, I need commitments from those countries as well, not only the Syrian opposition or the armed groups on the ground, but also the countries that have publically vowed to arm the opposition ....' When the Syrian government accepted the plan, probably in good faith, they thought that those commitments that were stipulated in the plan to be achieved or to be sought by the opposition would have been guaranteed by April 10, but apparently nothing has happened on that front. So we have to ask ourselves: Do we really need to implement a plan or do we really need to ensure a sustainable end of violence?"

Ammar Waqqaf, a member of the Syrian Social Club


TIMELINE: THE PEACE PLAN

  • March 27: UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan says he has received the backing of the Syrian government on a negotiated peace plan to end the violence.
  • April 2: Syria tells Annan that it will withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from cities by April 10.
  • April 7: Satellite images released by the US show the Syrian government failing to withdraw its military from residential areas.
  • April 8: Two days before the peace plan expires, Syria says it will not meet the UN deadline to pull its forces out of towns and cities unless it gets written guarantees from the armed groups.
  • April 9: Clashes erupt between Syrian soldiers and rebel fighters along the Turkish border, leaving at least five people wounded, including two Turkish officials.
  • April 10: The deadline for the partial implementation of the ceasefire deal passes, and violence continues. The Syrian and Russian foreign ministers meet in Moscow to discuss the Syria crisis.
Source:
Al Jazeera
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