Arab League foreign ministers are meeting in Baghdad, Iraq to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria, where a year of violence has resulted in more than 9,000 deaths.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to a six-point peace plan by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan earlier in the week -- however, that series of measures did not call for the president to step down. Although the plan has been criticized by the Syrian opposition, the Arab League is expected to endorse Annan's proposal.
He is buying time. It means more killing. He is playing games, Syrian National Council member Adib Shishakly told Reuters.
Every hour we are losing five people. So really, time is life.
Annans' peace plan includes a UN-supervised cease-fire, an open dialogue between the Syrian government and dissidents, the right to hold peaceful demonstrations, humanitarian access to areas damaged by fighting and increased freedom for journalists.
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Given Assad’s history of over-promising and under-delivering, that commitment must now be matched by immediate actions, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
We will judge Assad’s sincerity and seriousness by what he does, not by what he says. If he is ready to bring this dark chapter in Syria’s history to a close, he can prove it by immediately ordering regime forces to stop firing and begin withdrawing from populated areas.
The Council on Foreign Relation's Ed Husain also pointed out that Assad's acceptance of the Annan plan came only after Syrian forces took control of rebel areas in the cities of Homs and Hama.
Now that al-Assad has regained territory from the opposition, he is keen to be seen as a peacemaker, Husain said in an Op-Ed for CNN.
A day after Assad accepted the peace plan, Syrian troops continued to shell cities and villages, the Dubai-based Khaleej Times reported. Additionally, activists report that 40 or more people have been killed in the town of Saraqeb since pro-Assad forces stormed it over the weekend.
“Thousands of people have fled and nearby villagers have gone to homes in safe areas, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
They are cramming people into their homes, a dozen to a room, men, women and children.”
At the Arab League talks, some of Syria's opposition parties are consolidating their strength under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council. Many had left the SNC last month because they felt the group wasn't democratic enough. The SNC now has renewed strength, although Kurdish opposition delegates walked out during a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey on Tuesday, Reuters reported.