News / Middle East

Security Council Briefed on Syrian 'Low Point'

Jordanians and Syrian refugees protest the killing of at least 108 people in the Syrian town of Houla last Friday, outside the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan, May 30, 2012.Jordanians and Syrian refugees protest the killing of at least 108 people in the Syrian town of Houla last Friday, outside the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan, May 30, 2012.
x
Jordanians and Syrian refugees protest the killing of at least 108 people in the Syrian town of Houla last Friday, outside the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan, May 30, 2012.
Jordanians and Syrian refugees protest the killing of at least 108 people in the Syrian town of Houla last Friday, outside the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan, May 30, 2012.
Carla Babb
The deputy to international envoy Kofi Annan, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, has briefed the U.N.'s 15-nation Security Council on the envoy's visit to Syria, prompting one diplomat to call the current situation a "low point in the conflict."

After Wednesday's closed briefing, Germany's ambassador to the United Nations, Peter Wittig, told reporters that he hoped the "flagrant violations" like the recent massacre in Houla was an "eye opener for some members of the council."  He added that Germany is "against the militarization of the conflict."

U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan enters his car after his meeting with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Amman, May 30, 2012.U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan enters his car after his meeting with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Amman, May 30, 2012.
x
U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan enters his car after his meeting with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Amman, May 30, 2012.
U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan enters his car after his meeting with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Amman, May 30, 2012.
Mr. Annan left Syria on Wednesday to attend talks with Jordanian officials.  A U.N. official said the international envoy did not secure any major steps from the Syrian government to implement a faltering peace plan for the country.

"After 15 months of violence, only very strong signals will have an impact," Guéhenno told reporters. "Small diplomatic steps will not suffice."

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, whose country says it will veto any Security Council resolution that authorizes foreign military intervention in Syria, said after the briefing that Moscow is dissatisfied with the "current state of things."

The U.N. observer mission in Syria confirmed the killings of 13 people in the northeastern province of Deir el-Zour.  The mission said U.N. monitors found the bodies late Tuesday, with some of the dead appearing to have been shot in the head from short range and all having their hands tied behind their backs.

U.N. observer chief, Norwegian General Robert Mood, said he is "deeply disturbed by this appalling and inexcusable act."  He called on all parties "to exercise restraint and end the cycle of violence."

International community outraged

Handout photo released by Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows UN observers at hospital morgue before their burial in central Syrian town of Houla on May 26, 2012.Handout photo released by Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows UN observers at hospital morgue before their burial in central Syrian town of Houla on May 26, 2012.
x
Handout photo released by Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows UN observers at hospital morgue before their burial in central Syrian town of Houla on May 26, 2012.
Handout photo released by Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows UN observers at hospital morgue before their burial in central Syrian town of Houla on May 26, 2012.
International outrage has mounted since a massacre of more than 100 civilians took place in the central Syrian town of Houla last week.

Diplomats in Geneva said the U.N. Human Rights Council plans to hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the massacre.  They said the United States, Turkey and Qatar led the push for the special session.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak urged the international community to take tougher action against Bashar al-Assad's government.

"The events in Syria mean the world must take action -- not only by talking, but by acting," Barak said.  "These are crimes against humanity, and it is impossible that the international community stand aloof."  

The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday announced it will freeze the assets of the Syrian International Islamic Bank to tighten economic pressure on the Syrian government.

Several countries are expelling Syrian diplomats in protest of the Houla massacre.  Japan and Turkey announced the step on Wednesday.  They joined the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, which announced the expulsions of Syrian diplomats on Tuesday

Diplomatic blows

x
The Syrian government retaliated on Wednesday by ordering the Dutch charge d’Affaires to leave Syria within 72 hours.

Russia's U.N. ambassador on Wednesday called expulsions a "bilateral matter," but warned that they could be "misinterpreted by those who want to see foreign military intervention and fighting in Syria."

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Weimin said he is not aware of any Chinese move to expel or disrupt the work of Syrian diplomats in the country.  "China opposes military intervention in Syria and opposes regime change by force," Weimin said.

Annan plan 'a real failure'

Annan's plan called on the Syrian government to withdraw heavy weapons from civilian areas and abide by a truce with rebels.  But attacks by both sides have continued.

Syrian activists said fighting between government and rebel forces on Wednesday killed at least nine people, five of them in the Damascus suburb of Douma.  They said government troops shelled Douma and the central city of Homs, which also is an opposition stronghold.  The casualties could not be independently confirmed.

Abu Orouba, a media liaison for the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria, told VOA the situation across the country is dire.

"Annan’s plan is a real failure.  As a Syrian citizen, I see that it failed to produce any result - actually none of its articles were implemented.  Even the cease-fire requirement was not met," Orouba said.  "If Annan’s plan is still on the table and the U.N. observers are still on the ground, why did this massacre take place?  Why is there no cease-fire?"

Political scientist Alexei Malashenko of the Carnegie Center in Moscow says the situation in Syria is so dead-locked that a solely diplomatic solution is becoming impossible.  

“[President Assad] is a nervous man, and, it seems, is so confident in himself that he has gone over the top in his actions,” Malashenko said.  “The massacre in Houla is only the beginning; it will continue to get worse.” 

VOA Russian Service's Yuliya Appel and Middle East Voices' Mohammed Elshinnawi contributed to this report.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs