Assad misused chance offered by Annan plan, Turkey says

Assad misused chance offered by Annan plan, Turkey says
# 20 April 2012 04:59 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a NATO gathering earlier this week that President Bashar al-Assad has misused the opportunity offered to him by international envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan, following the continued shelling of civilians by Syrian forces, APA reports referring Today’s Zaman.

According to information from diplomatic sources, Davutoglu briefed ministers from NATO-member countries on the Syrian situation during a working lunch following a NATO foreign and defense ministerial meeting on Wednesday. Davutoglu said during the lunch that Assad has "abused a chance offered by the Annan plan," which foresees the regime implementing a truce and ending its offensive on dissident groups, which has lasted for 13 months.

During the briefing Davutoglu cited recent aggression by Syrian regime forces along the Turkish-Syrian border which targeted Syrians fleeing the violence, the same sources noted. The offensive resulted in several casualties, killing two Syrians who were sheltering in Turkish refugee camps and injuring more than 20 people. The Turkish foreign minister headed to Paris from Brussels to participate in a meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People conference.

The previous gathering of the group was held in Ä°stanbul earlier this month. Also speaking during the NATO conference, Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, said the international community is "at a crucial turning point" with regards to the Syrian crisis, which could see a sustained truce being accomplished in line with the Annan plan or Assad continuing his offensive and therefore "squandering his last chance before additional measures have to be considered."

A group of unarmed UN military observers arrived in Syria on Sunday in order to initiate contact with conflicting government and dissident forces and to report on whether there has been "a full cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties," according to the UN Security Council resolution issued last Saturday. The Syrian government is responsible for the safety of the monitor mission, the resolution also stressed.

Clinton also echoed the concerns of Turkish politicians during her speech, saying that "the [Syrian] conflict is now taking place right on NATO borders," mentioning the recent incident along the Turkish-Syrian border.

"Our NATO ally, Turkey, has already suffered the effects of not only the influx of refugees that it is very generously housing, but also having two people killed on their side of the border because of Syrian artillery," she said.

Turkish political sources are seemingly losing their faith in Assad’s commitment to the Annan plan, as regime forces continue to hammer Homs with artillery despite the declared truce.

"The Syrian regime is trying to play for time with its actions. When a cease-fire was declared in Syria, we reacted cautiously. The latest news from Syria has proven our cautious stance to be justified," Erdogan said during a group meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in Parliament on Tuesday.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated in Brussels on Wednesday that the organization does not have any plans to intervene in the situation in Syria. During a press conference at the end of the first day of a NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels, Rasmussen said: "We have no intention of intervening in Syria. We’re not considering taking action."

However, on April 10, he said, "NATO has responsibilities to protect the Turkish border according to Article 5." The premier was referring to the fifth article of the alliance’s treaty, which describes an attack on any member as an attack on all. Whether or not NATO launches an intervention will be the sole decision of treaty partners, who will assess the severity of the perceived threat.

"If there is a request from any ally to consult on a security situation, we have the very clear rule -- it’s also clearly stated in our Strategic Concept -- that we are prepared to consult on any issue that may be raised by any ally. But so far we have not received a request," said the secretary-general, when asked what NATO would do if Turkey invokes Article 5 as a result of further developments along its Syrian border.

Two Turkish nationals and two Syrians were injured in a refugee camp in Kilis province when Syrian forces fired across the border during clashes with opposition fighters, who reportedly had attempted to seize control of the border gate and then fled to Turkey. ErdoÄŸan called the incident a border violation and said Turkey would pursue measures under international law in response, raising prospects of military retaliation.