Syria has accepted UN envoy Kofi Annan's six-point proposal to end violence, a sudden development in the long-standing crisis, which the US administration has welcomed with caution and a general sentiment of skepticism.
Welcoming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's decision, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said he has to deliver what he has promised by accepting a proposal which mandates, among others, an immediate ceasefire and troop withdrawal.
Given Assad's history of overpromising and under-delivering, that commitment must now be matched by immediate action, Clinton told reporters in Washington, according to an AP report. 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 could prove it by immediately ordering regime forces to stop firing and begin withdrawing from populated areas.
The UN directive calls for Syria's commitment to work with Annan in an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people. The proposal also mandates humanitarian aid to be allowed for the wounded civilians and asks the government to intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons and provide a list of all places where such people are being held.
Syria also needs to ensure freedom of movement and a nondiscriminatory visa policy for journalists.
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Annan's spokesperson said that though Assad had accepted the basic proposal, it is unlikely that he will step down from the office.
On the day Syria accepted the proposal, Assad visited Baba Amr, a former rebel stronghold in the city of Homs, appearing casual and composed in an open-necked shirt and blue suit, ostensibly to drive home the point that he can tour the streets which witnessed a bloody rebellion aimed at overthrowing his government.
Life will return to normal in Baba Amr, better than it was before, Assad was quoted as saying by Reuters.
The Syrian opposition slammed Assad for appearing in Homs to show the world that he defeated the revolution.
He thinks he won and scored a great victory, opposition activist Saif Hurria told Reuters. He wants to show the world he defeated and put down a revolution. But ... it seems he can't even release the video until he has left Homs. That is not control.
Meanwhile, at least 15 people were killed on Tuesday in clashes between the military and rebel fighters. According to UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, nine of those killed were civilians.
Members of the Syrian opposition met in Istanbul on Monday, ahead of the Friends of Syria summit next week in Turkey, to discuss plans to unify various opposition groups and to draw up a national pact of common objectives for Syria to be presented to the Arab and Western leaders during the summit.
Iraq's foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, in the light of the Arab League summit this week in Baghdad, said that the League will not ask Assad to step down, but added that leaders are likely to agree on a doable solution to end the Syrian crisis.
It's up to the Syrian people to determine their own future, Zebari told reporters Monday, according to an AP report. It's not up to other countries to dictate to the Syrians what kind of leaders they have or don't have. I don't think there will be a call on Bashar to step aside.