Middle East News
LEADALL: Fighting rages as Annan says Syria accepts peace plan
By dpa correspondents Mar 27, 2012, 15:13 GMT
Syria has accepted a peace plan proposal by UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, his spokesman said Tuesday, as fighting raged on the outskirts of the capital Damascus and Syrian troops infiltrated Lebanon to fight escaping rebels.
The Syrian government has written to Annan accepting his six-point plan, endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said in a statement.
'I have received a response from the Syrian government ... which is positive,' Annan said in Beijing, where he was seeking Chinese support for his mediation efforts.
Fawzi said that Annan had in turn 'written to President (Bashar) al-Assad urging the Syrian government to put its commitments into immediate effect.'
Annan arrived in Beijing earlier Tuesday after a trip to Moscow. He has been trying to shore up support from Russia and China, who have been blocking UN Security Council resolutions on Syria.
'We've had very good discussions about the situation in Syria,' Annan told reporters after meeting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who gave his 'full support' to the former UN chief's mediation in Syria.
'And they are going to work with me and the other members of the (UN Security) Council to ensure that the six-point plan is implemented,' Annan added.
His plan calls for ending the year-long violence with a UN-supervised ceasefire, unfettered humanitarian aid access to Syrians caught in the conflict, the release of those detained during the unrest and the launch of an inclusive, Syrian-led process leading to a multi-party political system.
'Mr Annan has stressed that implementation will be key, not only for the Syrian people, who are caught in the middle of this tragedy, but also for the region and the international community as a whole,' Fawzi said in his statement.
Despite disagreeing with Western handling of the Syrian crisis, Russia and China back Annan's six-point plan.
Wen told Annan that China supported his mediation in Syria and believed it would lead to a 'fair, peaceful and appropriate' resolution of the conflict there, state media reported.
The conflict in Syria had reached a 'critical stage' and had drawn 'close attention from the international community,' Wen said.
After similar talks Monday in Moscow, Annan said al-Assad might have to leave 'in the end' as part of a settlement of the year-old conflict in the country.
But on Tuesday, President Dmitry Medvedev said al-Assad's resignation would not end the bloodshed in the country.
'The idea that getting rid of al-Assad would solve all problems (in Syria) is very shortsighted. If this were to happen the conflict would be more likely to continue,' Medvedev said in the South Korean capital Seoul, according to Russian news agencies.
China had already voiced broad support for Annan's diplomatic efforts to end the violence in Syria, where by UN estimates more than 8,000 people have died since March 2011.
In Syria, meanwhile, rebels and regular army units continued to clash across Syria Tuesday, killing at least 16 - including six soldiers.
Clashes on the edge of Damascus spread westward to Syria's border with Lebanon, where government troops chased rebels across the border, fighting with them in Lebanon's al-Qaa region.
'The troops then engaged in a 20-minute battle with rebels before retreating to Syrian land,' a Syrian activist in the area told dpa.
The rebels are members of the Free Syrian Army, a group of defectors who have joined the opposition since the uprising against al-Assad started last March. The UN says more than 8,000 people have died since the unrest began.
News coming from Syria cannot be verified, as independent journalists are still banned by authorities from entering restive areas across the country.
On Tuesday President al-Assad toured the restive area of Baba Amr in Homs, the site of heavy clashes between rebels and Syrian troops earlier this month, state-run media reported.
'The president inspected troops in Baba Amr,' SANA news agency reported.
It was the president's first visit to Baba Amr after dozens died in a month-long shelling campaign in the area in February.
Meanwhile, 300 Syrian opposition figures gathered near Istanbul at the invitation of Turkey and Qatar, in an attempt to unite their stances and provide a common strategy for the future of Syria.
The different factions reached consensus on their plans for humanitarian aid and the creation of a military safe zone for their country, which has suffered a year of violent rebellion.
The meeting came days ahead of a summit by the Friends of Syria, a contact group including representatives from various countries, the UN and the Syrian opposition. The talks, hosted by the Turkish government in conjunction with the Arab League, begin Sunday.
The opposition has so far rejected Assad's calls for dialogue, saying it is too late for that.
The crackdown has angered Arab countries including former allies Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who favour arming the rebels.
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