Syria Houla massacre: Russia told to intervene before it is too late (TELEGRAPH UK) By Peter Foster, Washington 05/28/12)
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William Hague issued an ultimatum to Russia last night to intervene
in the Syrian crisis before it was too late, warning that the
massacre of at least 108 people, including 32 young children in
Houla, had taken the country to the brink of civil war.
Speaking shortly before boarding a flight to Moscow for meetings with
his counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Monday, the Foreign Secretary said
that Russia now faced a stark choice between using its leverage with
the Assad regime or risking it´s last bastion of influence in the
Middle East descending into chaos.
Urging Moscow to put its full weight behind the six-point United
Nations plan for Syria brokered by the former secretary general Kofi
Annan, he said: "The Russians have a great deal of leverage over the
"We´ve had many differences of view over Russia at the Security
Council, but Russia does support the Annan plan and so I hope Russia
will redouble its efforts to get the Assad regime to implement that
plan," he said.
"It´s not in the interests of Russia, just as it´s not in the
interests of anybody in the world for Syria to descend in to an even
bloodier situation and in to full scale civil war and that is now the
Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN cast doubt on the culpability of
Syria’s government for a massacre of more than 100 people in the
central town of Houla.
“We need to establish whether it was the Syrian authorities,” Igor
Pankin said at the United Nations. “There are substantial grounds to
believe that the majority of those who were killed were either
slashed, cut by knives, or executed at point blank distance.”
Mr Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy, is due to arrive in
Damascus on Monday morning for talks over the beleaguered Six-Point
Plan to end the violence and begin a political process in Syria.
Mr Hague, who said he was "sickened" by the images from the massacre
at Houla, has also called an emergency session of the UN Security
Council and summoned Syria´s most senior diplomat to the Foreign
Office for an official dressing down. The council was due to meet on
the issue last night.
The UK mission to Moscow came amid deepening international outrage
over the massacre which the head of the UN observer mission in Syria,
Maj-Gen Robert Mood, also warned would fan the flames of instability
and "may lead the country to civil war".
As violence continued in Syria, the Houla massacre has already
stretched the credibility of the UN mission in Syria, with the Free
Syrian Army issuing a statement saying that the deal was "going to
hell" unless there was concerted international intervention.
Before departing for Moscow, Mr Hague held talks with Kofi Annan, Mr
Hague said there was a "good case" for increasing the size of the 300-
strong UN observer mission, but stressed that time was now running
out for the Six Point Plan, announced in April.
"I´ve discussed with him [Mr Annan] the urgency of getting a
political process going in Syria which is his objective before time
runs out," he added, "Time will run out before too long on that." As
the groundswell of Western condemnation grew – Russia remained
silent - Syria "categorically" denied responsibility for the killings
at Houla blaming "terrorists" for the incident.
"Women, children and old men were shot dead. This is not the hallmark
of the heroic Syrian army," a Syrian foreign ministry spokesman said
in Damascus, who claimed that Syria was being subjected to a "tsunami
A British diplomatic source dismissed the denials, describing them as
a transparent and "concerning" attempt to "seek impunity and lay the
blame on others".
Mr Hague said that it was still too early to discuss military or
other interventions in Syria, and that for now all efforts were being
focused on trying to get the Annan plan to stick – although
acknowledging that failure would come with consequences.
"If we come to the point where the Annan plan has clearly failed,
Britain will be arguing for a stronger response from the world, from
the United Nations Security Council, increasing our support to the
opposition, imposing further sanctions and measures on the Syrian
regime," he said.
In Washington, the Obama administration condemned the Houla massacre
as the work of the Assad regime, pledging that the "rule by murder"
must come to an end, without specifying measures.
The White House is reported to be focusing on pressuring the newly re-
election Russian president Vladimir Putin to back a deal that would
ease out the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, in a fix similar to
that brokered in Yemen.
Under the deal, which White House officials said was under
discussion, Mr Assad would leave office as the first step in a
developing a political process, as happened with the former Yemeni
president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
However both independent analysts and UK foreign office sources have
expressed skepticism over whether such a deal can be replicated in
Syria, a security state where Mr Assad´s minority Alawite sect rules
over a Sunni majority. (© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited
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