Syria cease-fire 'on track,' envoy Kofi Annan says
Kofi Annan, the architect of a six-point peace plan battered by persistent bloodshed in Syria, says his phased blueprint is "on track" for silencing the guns and ending 14 months of fighting some see as sliding into civil war.
President Obama, though, appears to be losing faith in the former United Nations secretary-general's intervention. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney warned after a deadly Syrian government assault on university students in historic Aleppo that unless there is an end to aggression that he blames primarily on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, that "the international community is going to have to admit defeat."
"It is clear, and we will not deny that the plan has not been succeeding thus far," Carney said in the administration's most pessimistic account of the situation in Syria since a cease-fire went into effect a month ago.
In Geneva, Annan's spokesman, Ahmed Fawzi, cited "small signs of compliance" with the cease-fire, despite the disturbing attack in Aleppo on Thursday.
"The Annan plan is on track," Fawzi said. "And a crisis that has been going on for more than a year is not going to be resolved in a day or a week."
The debate over whether Annan's intervention has half-failed or half-succeeded is likely to intensify before the U.N. Security Council gathering Tuesday at which Annan will update the world's diplomats on what progress has been made since the first of an expected 300 cease-fire monitors began arriving in the country last month.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told journalists Friday at the world body's headquarters in New York that the observer force led by a Norwegian general should reach 65 by Sunday, and that member nations have committed to boosting the force to at least 150 in the next few weeks.
The growing number of unarmed foreign observers has not quelled the antigovernment unrest, as obvious in the explosion of protests by Assad opponents on the Friday holy day, nor has the presence of witnesses deterred government troops from positioning heavy weapons in urban hotspots and firing on demonstrators in clear violation of the peace plan.
Where the rest of the international community stands is unclear, although the appetite for more forceful action to stop the violence in Syria seems no more robust as cease-fire violations mount than before the first measures of Annan's plan took effect a month ago.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, in Washington to give a speech Friday, told journalists he considered the Annan plan "still worth" working on. He said he planned to discuss the prospects for rescuing the only plan on the table with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon before Tuesday's Security Council meeting.
Meanwhile, opposition leaders reported more deaths from gunfire exchanges Friday, including in previously peaceful neighborhoods of Aleppo and the capital, Damascus, in a worrying sign that the deployment of observers to the usual trouble spots may only be chasing the confrontations elsewhere.
--Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles
Photo: Kofi Annan in Geneva, Switzerland, on Thursday. Credit: Martial Trezzini / European Pressphoto Agency