UN chief: There is no 'plan B' for ending the Syrian conflict
At least 200 have died in Syria in the two months since a UN-backed cease-fire went into effect, but Ban Ki-moon rejects assertions that part of the problem is the low number of monitors on the ground.
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In a live television interview on the CNN program Amanpour yesterday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admitted that, despite the failure so far of a UN peace plan for Syria, there is no "plan B" for ending more than a year of violence that has killed an estimated 10,000 Syrians.
"At this time, we don't have any plan B. The joint special envoy Kofi Annan has proposed six peace proposals, among which the complete cessation of violence is No. 1. Unfortunately, this has not been implemented…" Mr. Ban said.
The interview followed the release of a report yesterday on the UN investigation into the conflict in Syria. While finding evidence on both sides of "gross human rights violations" since a UN-backed cease-fire went into effect in April, the report pinned most of the blame on the Syrian military and security forces controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Reuters reports.
Government abuses included heavy shelling of residential areas, executions and torture. Syrian forces routinely drew up a list of wanted persons and their families before blockading and then attacking a village or neighborhood, the report said.
"Most of the serious human rights violations documented by the commission in this update were committed by the Syrian army and security services as part of military or search operations conducted in locations known for hosting defectors and/or armed persons, or perceived as supportive of anti-government armed groups," the report said.
However, the rebels are also guilty of violations, the report states. It notes that they executed and tortured soldiers and government supporters and abducted civilians for bartering in prisoner exchanges and to secure ransom payments.
Investigators, who were not allowed into the country and based their findings on more than 200 interviews, said there have been at least 207 deaths in the almost two months since the cease-fire went into effect, Reuters reports.
Agence France-Presse notes that the report came "hot on the heels of accusations by Amnesty International that 'the pattern and scale of state abuses may have constituted crimes against humanity.' The London-based rights watchdog denounced the UN Security Council for failing to refer Assad to the International Criminal Court as it had done with Libya's Muammar Gaddafi."
Syria's Day Press News reports that President Assad told a special envoy from Iran yesterday that Syria has "overcome the pressures and challenges that faced it" and will emerge from the crisis "thanks to its people's steadfastness and adherence to its unity and independence."
In his television interview Mr. Ban told Christiane Amanpour, the host of the program, that violence has been "dampened" by the deployment of 300 UN monitors throughout the country, but acknowledged that the complete cessation of violence was far off. However, he dismissed the assertion by Ms. Amanpour – who compared the UN monitors' job to "trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon" – that the problem was the low number of monitors in the country.
"Of course it's not a matter of a number of monitors. We have almost 300 [inaudible] number of monitors. … They are deployed in seven cities, including Damascus ... Homs, Hama, Idlib, Aleppo. They are patrolling every day wherever possible. They try their best to cease this violence. [Inaudible] strong political will at the level of President Assad and also it requires full cooperation by the opposition forces," Ban said. "There are so many spoilers at this time which really make the situation very difficult. We have not been able to commence a political dialogue."
Despite the seeming intractability of the conflict and signs it could be spilling over into Lebanon, Ban seemed to dismiss a suggestion from Amanpour that the UN might consider an intervention like the one authorized in Libya.
While not outright rejecting her suggestion, Ban did not acknowledge it, instead responding, "The Security Council members, when they are united, they can make a huge impact to maintaining peace and security of the international community."
At least 10 people have been killed in Lebanon in the past two weeks in violence linked to Syria's own unrest. According to Lebanese officials, armed gunmen in Syria kidnapped 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims earlier this week, prompting protests in Beirut, Associated Press reports.