On the eve of the April 10th UN-brokered ceasefire, hopes are fading as conflict in Syria burst over the border into neighboring Lebanon and Turkey on Monday.
The unrelenting violence has indicated that the peace plan promoted by international envoy Kofi Annan and initially accepted by both sides was in tatters. The Assad regime was to have started pulling troops out of urban areas by Tuesday the 10th, paving the way for a ceasefire to start 48 hours after troop withdrawal. President Assad agreed on the premise that the opposition forces give written guarantees they would stop fighting and lay down their arms, a demand they immediately rejected considering the security dilemma that would position themselves into. Without such arms, the security forces would face no challenge to their repressive violence that would quickly silence all domestic violence and therefore make redundant any international efforts to intervene. So saying, the Free Syrian Army was only acting out of self-preservation by rejecting Assad’s plans. Moreover, the lack of government forces giving any indication of pulling back verifies the intent of Assad and his loyalists. The development have come after the US State Department said that the Syrian regime was trying to stall for time with its demands for written guarantees from the opposition forces. Evidently, the failure of yet another international response has come at the price of more Syrians and the neighboring countries, intensifying the call to action to end the repression in Syria.
“The Syrian regime does not understand compromise. Its ethos is ‘rule or die’. Therefore, Syria will continue its inexorable slide into full-scale civil war, especially since the chance for effective foreign intervention to stop bloodletting is also zero.” – Augustus Richard Norton, Middle East specialist from Boston University
Monday has proved to be one of the bloodiest days of the uprising despite the truce deal, which should be marked by troop withdrawals from towns and cities. Activists reported more than 100 deaths, among them at least 30 civilians who died during the Syrian army bombardment in the central province of Hama. The violence has also claimed the lives of civilians and journalists in neighboring countries, illustrating the international consequences of this civil war. Lebanese Prime Minster Najib Mikati condemned the Syrian regime and sent his condolences for the death of Ali Shaaban, part of a 3-man crew with Lebanese television channel al-Jadeed, which was filming on Lebanon’s norther border with Syria. In Turkey, violence broke out as a group of dozens of Syrians sought to cross the Turkish border, the latest of more than 20,000 other refugees. The group was spotted making its way to the border and both Syrian nationals and Turkish policeman approached the border. As the two groups met at the border, they were fired upon by unidentified gunmen in Syria, who injured the Syrian refugees, policeman and the translator on the Turkish side of the border. With the population in both Lebanon and Turkey deeply divided between those who support the opposition and those who still hope the embattled president will remain in power, some fear that such incidents could prove a spark in a very combustible environment.
“We summoned the Syrian charge d’affaires in Ankara, and told him that every Syrian within Turkish territory was under Turkish protection, and we urged him that the fighting on the other side of the border stop. We said that if this repeats, we will take necessary measures.” – Turkish spokesman
In retrospect, the diplomatic options open to the international community have been exhausted and the internal strife of the Syria conflict has begun to spill over unto neighboring lands, escalating the immediate need for definitive action. If Turkey was backed by the US and other Western nations, all members of the “Friends of Syria” contact group, then the long-discussed ‘safe zones’ on the Syria side of the Turkish border could be the next step against violence in Syria. The worsening conditions of the conflict make the situation far worse for the international community, as well as a bad reflection on their inability to respond effectively. Much of the blame can be laid on the feet of Assad’s international powerhouse friends. China has supported Assad in his year-long effort to crush the uprising. Russia, which has defended him in the UNSC and remains Assad’s most important ally, stopped short of pressing him to rein in his army.