Saturday 21 April 2018

No room for Assad in any new government under UN plans

A Syrian girl chants slogans during a demonstration in Idlib, north Syria. Photo: AP
A Syrian girl chants slogans during a demonstration in Idlib, north Syria. Photo: AP

Patrick Cockburn

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be excluded from the transitional unity government proposed as part of a new United Nations peace plan for the country.

Speaking a day after a UN meeting in Geneva, which proposed the new plan, UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague said the transitional government should be made up of "people from the present government and opposition groups on the basis of mutual consent, which would of course exclude President Assad".

He did not elaborate on how a deal excluding Mr Assad from the transitional government would be struck.

Meanwhile, the fighting within Syria continues to escalate.

Activists claim 800 people died in the last week.

There have also been reports of fighting and heavy civilian loss of life in Douma, an opposition stronghold near Damascus.

Syrian opposition groups rejected the new UN peace plan and pledged that they would not negotiate with Mr Assad or any of his "murderous" regime.

The new proposals put the onus on Russia and China to persuade Mr Assad to leave power, but they are unclear about his future role.

As a transitional authority could only be formed by "mutual consent", each side would have a veto on the other taking part.

"Every day I ask myself, do they not see how the Syrian people are being slaughtered?" Syrian opposition leader Haitham Maleh told a news agency.

"It is a catastrophe; the country has been destroyed and they want us then to sit with the killer?"

Mr Maleh described the agreement reached in Geneva as a waste of time and of "no value on the ground".

Meanwhile, Turkey scrambled its fighter aircraft to the border with Syria yesterday after Syrian helicopters flew close to its northern frontier.

Turkish officials said it would treat any Syrian aircraft approaching its frontier as a potential threat after one of its F-16 fighters on a reconnaissance mission was shot down on June 22.

It responded by setting up anti-aircraft guns along the frontier.

Syria's main opposition group said nearly 800 people had been killed in violence across the country in the past week, which saw some of the bloodiest attacks in the 16-month uprising against Mr Assad.

Opposition activist groups say more than 14,000 people have been killed in the 15-month-old uprising, equal to an average of about 900 a month.

That would make last week's toll alone, tallied by the Syrian National Council (SNC), almost as high as the monthly average.

Tensions

The tensions with Turkey and the mounting death toll have added urgency to the diplomatic efforts at the international conference over the weekend aimed at stopping the bloodshed.

The US, however, backed away from insisting that the plan should explicitly bar Mr Assad from any role in a new government.

They hoped the concession would encourage Russia to put greater pressure on its longtime ally to end the violent crackdown on dissent.

But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted on Saturday that Mr Assad would still have to go. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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