U.N.-Arab League envoy on Syria Kofi Annan says the Syrian government accepted his six-point peace plan for ending the year-long crisis. Mr. Annan called the move an “important initial step.”
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 10 people were killed on Tuesday, as government forces fired at civilians and battled rebels in several parts of the country, including the northwestern province of Idlib, the Damascus suburbs and the central city of Homs.
Syrian President Assad on Tuesday toured the former rebel stronghold of Baba Amr in Homs, the scene of a weeks-long siege by government forces. He was seen walking past ruined buildings and discussing reconstruction efforts.
Kofi Annan met with officials in Beijing Tuesday, following a stop in Moscow. He is talking with countries with influence in Damascus about how to stop the bloodshed that, according to the U.N., has claimed more than 9,000 lives.
In a statement Mr. Annan’s spokesman said the Syrian government had written to the joint envoy accepting his peace plan, which received unanimous backing from the U.N. Security Council last week. Mr. Annan stressed that “implementation will be key.”
The plan calls for a U.N.-monitored stop to the violence, access for humanitarian aid workers, and an inclusive Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, multi-party political system.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, who holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency this month, said the 15-nation body hopes to hear more on the details directly from Mr. Annan soon. “Well, obviously, this is potentially a significant step and we are exploring the possibility of Kofi Annan coming to brief the Security Council later this week or early next week," he said.
French Ambassador Gérard Araud expressed some skepticism, referring to the old adage about “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” - meaning the Syrian response would be judged in the final result.
German Ambassador Peter Wittig was also restrained in his optimism. “Well it might turn out to be a first step in the right direction, but of course we have to remain cautious. Syria has in the past a history of credibility gaps," he said.
A member of the exiled opposition Syrian National Council responded to Syria's acceptance of the Annan peace plan by reiterating a demand for Assad to resign, a condition that is not part of the initiative. Ausama Monajed says that unless the Syrian president hands power to a deputy to negotiate with the opposition, any talks will be a "waste of time" and lead to more casualties.
Analysts say that Syrian acceptance of the Annan plan is an important first step, but implementation is key.
George Washington University International Relations professor Edmund Ghareeb said the Annan plan’s points, such as calling for dialogue and demanding both sides stop the violence, and its lack of any call for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, could be viewed as closer to the Syrian government’s position.
“I think they realize that both the United States and Russia have agreed to support the Annan mission and that this may be the last opportunity to reach a peaceful, diplomatic way out of the current impasse. So a great deal is going to depend on the implementation and what happens next, as well as the reactions of other players in the region and within the Syrian opposition," he said.
But senior adviser on Middle East initiatives at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Steve Heydemann, notes that President Assad has agreed to other peace initiatives before and then not implemented them. He said such a pattern does not bode well for Mr. Annan’s efforts.