Syrian Conflict Escalates as Foreign Ministers Head to Geneva
July 2, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly
The United Nations (UN) Special Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan called a meeting of key foreign ministers Geneva, Switzerland, on June 30. United States (US) Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton attended along with her counterparts from Russia, Britain, France, and China. The Guardian reported that the UN Security Council members agreed on a final text for a communiqué calling for the formation of a unity government in Syria that would likely exclude President Bashar al Assad.
Reuters - France says Geneva Syria plans implies Assad must go
On July 1, Britain’s Foreign Office clarified that the communiqué requires “mutual consent” from both the opposition and current regime members to form a unity government. According to Reuters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted that there are no preconditions excluding al Assad or anyone else from the unity government. However, French Foreign Minster Laurent Fabius, said that “the opposition will never agree to [Assad], so it signals implicitly that Assad must go and that he is finished.”
On June 29, Syrian opposition groups claimed that up to 190 civilians had been killed the previous day throughout Syria. The New York Times reported details based on reports by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian-based Local Coordination Committees. The number of deaths could not be independently verified. According to the Observatory for Human Rights, June has been the deadliest month in the conflict, which began in March 2011. According to their tallies, some 7,771 civilians have been killed along with about 1,300 anti-government rebels.
On June 28, the same day on which 190 civilians were reportedly killed, Syrian President Bashar al Assad was interviewed by Iranian state television. According to Reuters, he said, “The responsibility of the Syrian government is to protect all of our residents. You have a responsibility to annihilate terrorists in any corner of the country.” Al Assad thanked Iran for its support and criticized Turkish policy, which he claims “lead to the killing and bloodshed of the Syrian people.”
The stakes in Syria have significantly risen over the past few weeks. On June 22, Syria shot down a Turkish reconnaissance jet. According to the Syrian government, the plane had entered Syrian airspace unannounced, though Turkey claims the aircraft was in international airspace when it was shot down. According to CNN, both countries are now looking in the Mediterranean for the two pilots, whose whereabouts are as yet unknown. On June 27, Syrian Information Minister Omran Al Zubi told a Turkish media outlet that “maybe Syria thought it was an Israeli plane.”
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded harshly to Syria’s downing of the plane. Erdogan told the Turkish parliament on June 26, “Every military element approaching Turkey from the Syrian border and representing a security risk and danger will be assessed as a military threat and will be treated as a military target.” The Guardian relayed a statement by the Turkish military stating that it had scrambled F-16 jets to the Syrian border after Syrian helicopters entered the frontier area on June 30.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) also condemned Syria for shooting down the Turkish jet. The BBC reported that the 28 members of the alliance issued a joint-statement saying Syria’s behavior was “unacceptable.” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called it “another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms,” and added: “NATO allies will remain seized of developments.”
The third ministerial meeting of the “Friends of Syria” group will take place in Paris on July 6. According to Reuters, the goal of the meeting will be to create a “united front” to represent the opposition groups. Representatives from the United States, France, Britain, Germany and several Arab states will attend along with Syrian opposition members.
For previous news on Syria, please see:
Responses to the Houla Massacre
BBC - Turkey PM Erdogan issues Syria border warning
CNN - Official: Syria might have thought downed jet was Israeli
The Guardian - Syria crisis: Geneva talks sound death knell for Assad regime
The New York Times - Annan ‘Optimistic’ Over Geneva Talks on Syria
The New York Times - Syrian Groups Say Bloody Day Left High Toll of Civilians
Reuters - Syria's Assad says duty to "annihilate terrorists"