UN Council endorses Annan's plan on Syria
The UN Security Council yesterday demanded that Syria "immediately" implement a peace plan proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and gave a veiled warning of international action.
Following intense negotiations between the major powers, Russia and China signed up to a Western-drafted text which calls on President Bashar al-Assad to work toward a cessation of hostilities and a democratic transition.
The presidential statement, which carries less weight than a formal resolution, gives strong backing to Annan and the six-point plan he put to Assad in talks in Damascus earlier this month.
"The Security Council calls upon the Syrian government and opposition to work in good faith with the envoy towards a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis and to implement fully and immediately his initial six-point proposal," says the statement.
The council said Annan should regularly update the body on his efforts.
"In the light of these reports, the Security Council will consider further steps as appropriate," the statement adds.
Annan's plan calls for a UN-supervised halt to fighting with the government pulling troops and heavy weapons out of protest cities, a daily two-hour humanitarian pause to hostilities and access to all areas affected by the fighting.
The Security Council also agreed a press statement, proposed by Russia, which condemns bomb attacks in Damascus and Aleppo at the weekend.
Meanwhile, Japan's foreign ministry yesterday said it would close its embassy in Syria, citing deteriorating security conditions amid a brutal crackdown on anti-government protestors.
A ministry statement said the embassy, which had already been reducing its operations since earlier this month, will continue to operate out of Japan's diplomatic compound in neighbouring Jordan.
A number of countries have already curtailed their diplomatic activities in Damascus, including the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Switzerland and the Gulf Arab countries.
Meanwhile, an Islamist group claimed responsibility for last weekend's suicide car bombings in central Damascus to avenge the Syrian regime's "massacre of Sunnis," in a statement posted online yesterday.
The group said the attacks were "to avenge the people of Homs" besieged by regime forces.