JEDDAH - UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on Sunday for broad international talks on the rising Syrian crisis, urging Security Council members to consider Arab League demands for stronger UN action in the strife-torn country.
The Human Rights Watch Sunday urged the international community to stop signing deals with firms that provide arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Defiant President Bashar al-Assad dismissed accusations his government had any role in the brutal Houla massacre, as he charged forces outside Syria of plotting to destroy the country.
“Our priority at this time is to help the Syrian people...I want to welcome a wider international discussion on the future course of actions,” the UN chief told reporters after a meeting with Organisation of Islamic Cooperation chief, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, in the Saudi port city of Jeddah. Ban said he had “taken note” of Arab League calls for more peace monitors on the ground in Syria and “setting a certain time limit” for implementing international envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point Syria peace plan.
“All these are very important recommendations and I hope that these will be discussed by the Security Council members,” he said, adding that the UN and OIC will “do all what we can in close coordination...to support (Annan’s) efforts.”
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani, who heads the Arab League Syria committee said on Saturday that it was “unacceptable that massacres and bloodshed continue while (Annan’s) mission is ongoing indefinitely.” Speaking during a meeting attended by Annan in Doha, he said the Arab League “demand the UN Security Council refer (the peace plan) to Chapter VII so that the international community could assume responsibilities.”
Chapter VII outlines action the Security Council might take, including military force, in response to threats to international peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression.
Up to 300 unarmed UN military observers have deployed in Syria since a putative ceasefire brokered by Annan went into effect in April. The plan calls for a halt to violence, daily two-hour humanitarian truce, media access to areas of fighting, the launching of a political dialogue, the right to demonstrate and the release of detainees.
In what appeared to be a spill over of Syrian fire, Lebanese troops deployed in the city of Tripoli on Sunday after 15 people were killed in clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Local medics said it was the deadliest fighting in Lebanon since Syria’s uprising began. Residents said relative calm had returned to the Mediterranean city since the soldiers took up positions around the city at around 7am, after gunmen exchanged heavy machinegun fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
Two people wounded in the fighting died on Sunday, adding to the 13 killed on Saturday. Occasional gunfire could still be heard but was less intense than earlier exchanges.
OIC chief Ihsanoglu, meanwhile, said the Tripoli clashes are a “dangerous development.” “Lebanon has a long history with civil war...and I hope it doesn’t slide back” into it, Ihsanoglu told reporters after his meeting with Ban. “That is why we say that the conflict and killing in Syria must stop,” he added.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Sunday that France “has not excluded military intervention” in Syria, but only under a United Nations mandate. Speaking in Singapore at an Asian security summit, he also urged Russia to drop its backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin was to host EU chiefs for an informal dinner on Sunday at the start of a two-day summit overshadowed by clashing visions on Syria and Iran.
“The only way out of the Syria crisis... involves a cessation of violence and consistent support for the plan of (mediator Kofi) Annan,” the Russian foreign ministry said on Sunday. “Russia will continue supporting this position and calls on other states to do the same.”