Western leaders threaten Syria after UN warns of failing ceasefire (TELEGRAPH UK) By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent and Damien McElroy 04/20/12)
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Western leaders issued the threat of international intervention to
set up “humanitarian corridors” in Syria on Thursday night after the
UN warned that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was failing to
honour the terms of a ceasefire.
As foreign ministers gathered in Paris to discuss the crisis, Nicolas
Sarkozy, the French president, compared the situation in Syria to
that in Libya before the fall of Col Muammar Gaddafi and said the
time had come to set up safe corridors for the provision of aid and
to allow refugees to escape the fighting.
The Pentagon also warned for the first time that “all options” were
on the table to resolve the conflict following a dire assessment from
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general.
In a briefing to the Security Council ahead of last night’s Paris
summit, Mr Ban said the situation on the ground in Syria was “highly
precarious” and that attacks were on the rise, including
the “shelling of civilian areas”.
He warned of “grave abuses by government forces” and demanded the
regime immediately pull its heavy military equipment out of cities in
accordance with Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan.
Speaking as the meeting opened, Alain Juppé, the French foreign
minister, said the failure of the Annan plan would lead to “civil
war” . He said “several hundred” international monitors were needed
in Syria to police the ceasefire.
The UN was on Thursday said to have agreed a preliminary deal with
Damascus for the deployment of more peace monitors, however it was
unclear what access or support they would be given. The UN is
believed to want at least 300 on the ground.
Addressing the meeting of 14 states allied to the Syrian opposition
last night, Mr Juppé said: “We cannot wait, time is short. The
observers must be deployed fast and must be able to act without
obstacles. The Annan plan is a guarantee of peace and freedom — its
failure the path to civil, even regional, war.”
In a joint statement, the 14 nations said the Annan plan was
the “last hope”. “Every day that passes means tens of new Syrian
civilian deaths,” the statement said. “It is time to act.”
The meeting resolved that the “Friends of Syria” group, which
includes France, the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, would do everything
to ensure the UN plan succeeded. Earlier, Mr Sarkozy had compared
Syria to Libya and repeated calls to create a safe passage for relief
organisations to get food and medicine to about a million civilians.
“Bashar al-Assad is lying … He wants to wipe Homs off the map just
like Gaddafi wanted to destroy Benghazi,” he said. “The solution is
the establishment of humanitarian corridors so that an opposition can
exist in Syria.”
Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, said Mr Assad’s apparent
success in beating off the insurgency with overwhelming military
force meant he would “ultimately be brought down”.
“All options are on the table,” he said. “The department of defence
is reviewing and continuing to review plans for a variety of possible
scenarios should the president determine that further steps are
necessary. We have looked at a variety of options including the
possibility of developing humanitarian corridors.”
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, on Thursday night said
that Turkey was considering invoking Article 4 of the North Atlantic
Treaty Organisation, which calls for consultation between all member
countries if any of their “territorial integrity” or security is
threatened. Last week, Turkey also threatened to invoke Article 5,
which calls an attack on one Nato member — like Turkey — an attack on
all members after Assad regime troops fired into its territory.
British officials said they were deeply opposed to humanitarian
corridors, which would need to be patrolled by military forces and
would represent a target for the regime. “The Syrian government is in
theory willing to help facilitate unrestricted humanitarian aid, but
when it comes down to it is preventing access,” one British official
On Thursday night, Syria’s rebel Free Syrian Army said it was time
for outside military intervention even without Security Council
The Pentagon was the most reluctant element in the US
administration’s decision to go to war in Libya last year, and has
not been keen in pushing military options in Syria. Mr Panetta last
month said the administration was “focusing on diplomatic and
Thursday’s words, before the House Armed Forces Committee, are a
considerable change of emphasis. In the past two weeks there have
also been changes on the ground to lift humanitarian corridors or
buffer zones, previously deemed too dangerous, up the agenda. (©
Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012. 04/20/12)
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