20 Apr 2012

Diplomats play the only game in town as Syria runs on

11:08 pm on 20 April 2012

Ministers stress the urgent need to send monitors into Syria to observe the cease-fire, even as they point to the declaration by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the Syrian regime has violated nearly every aspect of Annan's plan, including obstructing work on the advance monitoring team on the ground and turning a blind eye to the growing humanitarian crisis on the ground.

UN reports say the shelling of Homs and other Syrian towns are as bad as ever, the regime continues to fire on peaceful protestors, but the ministers in Paris are loath to declare the Annan plan dead, CNN reports.

Annan's proposal is their only hope: that the cease-fire will hold long enough that a full U.N. monitoring force can move into the country. The hope that al-Assad will break with his tradition and stop killing his opponents. The hope that he will suddenly move toward a political transition and step aside.

It looks bad, but we can't give up, one Arab foreign minister told CNN. It's the only game in town.

Tough line from USA, France

United States and France took a tough line against the Syrian government, short of urging military action.

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, wants a global arms embargo if the government continues to break the ceasefire.

In that event, the French foreign minister, Alain Juppe, says other options will be examined.

Despite the preliminary deal on an international ceasefire monitoring mission to pave the way for an expanded deployment of 300 observers, Mr Ban says Syria has not fully withdrawn its military from towns and cities.

Mr Ban, who says Syria is failing to send a clear signal about its commitment to peace, says the situation remains highly precarious, and he has seen deeply troubling evidence of continuing violence.

While violence diminished at the time the ceasefire formally came into effect on 12 April, he says, it has escalated again in recent days.

Mr Ban also noted no significant release of detainees and no substantive progress in negotiations on humanitarian access, as agreed in the six-point plan negotiated by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.

UN diplomats say so far no agreement has been reached on crucial issues like the use of helicopters and planes. It is also not clear how freely observers will be permitted to move around.

The BBC reports some correspondents as saying that the Security Council, which is not due to make a decision on the mission until next week, may be afraid to put unarmed observers on the ground if the situation continues to deteriorate.

Civil war feared if plan fails

Speaking as foreign ministers from the Friends of Syria coalition gathered in Paris on Friday morning NZ time, Mr Juppe warned the situation in Syria could spill out to the wider region, and several hundred international monitors are needed.

[audiio]http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2516389/un-plan-last-hope-for-peace-in-syria-say-ministers.asx Listen to more from Paris on Morning Report

The six-point peace plan

1. Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people

2. UN-supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians

3. All parties to ensure provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and implement a daily two-hour humanitarian pause

4. Authorities to intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons

5. Authorities to ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists

6. Authorities to respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully