Tuesday

26th Jul 2016

UN agrees to new Syria plan

Foreign ministers, including China and Russia, agreed Saturday (30 June) in Geneva to a new United Nations peace plan that calls upon the immediate cessation of violence in Syria and for “clear and irreversible steps” towards a transitional government.

The internationally-backed UN plan made no specific reference to the stepping down of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. The new transitional government, notes the UN document, would instead include by “mutual consent” members of the present government and the opposition.

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  • Some 800 people died last week in Syria, say activists. (Photo: syriana2011)

Russia and China continue to oppose any direct intervention but the new proposal may leave open the possibility for Assad’s removal, claim both UK and French foreign ministers.

“Even if they say the opposite, the fact that the text says specifically that there will be a transitional government with all powers means it won't be Bashar al-Assad … because it will be people that are agreed to by mutual consent,” said French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius.

The transitional plan says a political agreement must offer a clear timetable. It also states the transition needs to be rapid and “genuinely democratic and pluralistic”. Elections would occur once a new constitutional order has been drafted and accepted by the Syrians, says the plan.

The Geneva plan also calls upon the Syrian government to release people who have been arbitrarily detained, allow in humanitarian organisations, ensure the freedom of movement of journalists, and respect the freedom of association and the right to demonstrate.

The Guardian newspaper reports opposition inside Syria is disappointed with the new Geneva proposal, calling it “ambiguous” and “a waste of time”.

Meanwhile, the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement the agreement “offers concrete points for action and I hope it will help bring about an end to violence and launch a political process in Syria and led by Syrians.”

An estimated 16,000 people have so far lost their lives in an uprising that started around 15 months ago. Some 800 died last week alone, according to activists.

Syrian government forces on Saturday reportedly broke past rebel resistance in Douma, an opposition-stronghold in the suburbs of Damascus.

An ITV News correspondent in Syria said on Friday warplanes were dropping bombs on the city. Reuters reports local residents spotted a convoy of some 200 government troops entering the district the following day.

Turkey sends fighter jets

Ministers backing Saturday's UN proposal, including Turkey’s minister, oppose militarisation and any escalation to the conflict.

But on Sunday, Turkey scrambled six F-16 fighter jets near its 800 km border with Syria. Syrian military helicopters had come within 6.5 km of entering Turkey’s airspace.

Turkey on Friday also deployed rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns along the border. Syria had downed a Turkish F-4 Phantom jet on 22 June.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said any Syrian military aircraft approaching its border would be seen and treated as a threat.

He described Syria as a “clear and present threat”.

MEPs fear further 'Putinisation' of Turkey

MEPs criticised the harsh crackdown in Turkey after last week's failed coup, and warned that Ankara must not go down the road towards an authoritarian regime, in an extraordinary meeting of the EP's foreign affairs committee.

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