United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said on June 7, 2012, that Syria is quickly moving from a "tipping point" to a "breaking point," and that the 15-month old terror in that country is teetering toward full-out civil war. Ban made his statement just a day before former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan -- who is now the Arab League's special envoy to Syria -- blamed the failure of a U.N. six-point peace plan on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his autocratic regime.
Violence erupted in Syria in February 2011 as the democratic Arab Spring movement prompted civilians to challenge Assad's government. The United Nations estimates that Syrian forces have killed more than 10,000 people; the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that more than 78,000 refugees have fled the violence to neighboring countries. The UNHCR has requested $84 million from U.N. member countries to deal with the refugee crisis.
Assad's forces most recently attacked civilians at Houla on May 25, killing 108, and at Al Kubeir and Kafr Zeta shortly before Ban spoke. "Today's news reports of another massacre . . . are shocking and sickening," said Ban. "A village apparently surrounded by Syrian forces - the bodies of innocent civilians lying there - they were shot, some allegedly burned or slashed with knives. We condemn this unspeakable barbarity and renew our determination to bring those responsible to account."
Assad's government routinely blames the violence on civilian rebels. While Ban and Annan say both sides need to stop the violence, they place the burden of responsibility on Assad. "The trail of blood leads back to those responsible. Any regime or leader that tolerates such killing of innocents has lost its fundamental humanity," said Ban.
The Six-Point Plan For Peace
In April 2012, Annan and the Arab League put forward a six-point proposal for peace in Syria. It states that Syria should:
- Commit to work with the Envoy in an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people, and, to this end, commit to appoint an empowered interlocutor when invited to do so by the Envoy;
- Commit to stop the fighting and achieve urgently an effective United Nations supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilize the country.
To this end, the Syrian government should immediately cease troop movements towards, and end the use of heavy weapons in, population centers, and begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centers.
As these actions are being taken on the ground, the Syrian government should work with the Envoy to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism.
Similar commitments would be sought by the Envoy from the opposition and all relevant elements to stop the fighting and work with him to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism;
- Ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and to this end, as immediate steps, to accept and implement a daily two hour humanitarian pause and to coordinate exact time and modalities of the daily pause through an efficient mechanism, including at local level;
- Intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons, including especially vulnerable categories of persons, and persons involved in peaceful political activities, provide without delay through appropriate channels a list of all places in which such persons are being detained, immediately begin organizing access to such locations and through appropriate channels respond promptly to all written requests for information, access or release regarding such persons;
- ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them;
- Respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed.
Assad told Annan that he could not work within the plan as long as foreign nations supplied arms and assistance to Syrian rebels. The plan went into effect on April 12, 2012, but neither side gave it much respect. The Syrian government has also impeded the efforts of U.N. monitors assigned to track violent incidents.
Annan said he has not given up on the plan, nor diplomatic efforts to achieve peace. He said diplomacy, rather than military intervention, is the key to saving as many civilian lives as possible. "The whole idea is to stop the killing, the brutality, the unacceptable human rights abuses. It takes time, but we hope not too much time," Annan said.