Syria has derided UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as biased and called his comments “outrageous” after he blamed the regime for widespread ceasefire violations — the latest sign of trouble for an international peace plan many expect to fail.
In new fighting on Saturday, activists said regime forces battled army defectors near Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s summer palace in a coastal village and shelled a Damascus suburb in pursuit of gunmen. State media said government troops foiled an attempt by armed men in rubber boats to land on Syria’s coast, the first reported attempt by rebels to infiltrate from the sea.
The regime’s verbal attack on the UN secretary-general raised new concerns that al-Assad is playing for time to avoid compliance with a plan that could eventually force him out of office.
Under special envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point road map, a ceasefire is to be followed by the deployment of as many as 300 UN truce monitors and talks between al-Assad and the opposition on Syria’s political future. The head of the observer team, Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, was to arrive in Damascus yesterday to assume command, spokesman Neeraj Singh said.
Annan’s April 12 ceasefire deadline has been widely ignored. The regime continues to attack -opposition strongholds, while rebel fighters keep targeting security forces with roadside bombs and shooting ambushes. Defying a major truce provision, the Syrian military failed to withdraw tanks and soldiers from the streets.
Ban and Annan have cited violations by both sides, but generally portrayed the regime as the main aggressor.
On Friday, Ban said Syria’s repression of civilians reached an “intolerable stage” and demanded that the regime “live up to its promises to the world.”
His comments came just hours after a suicide bombing the regime blamed on anti-government “terrorists” killed 10 people in Damascus.
An editorial on Saturday in the state-run Tishrin newspaper said Ban has avoided discussing rebel violence in favor of “outrageous” statements against the Syrian government.
The editorial said the international community has applied a double standard, ignoring “crimes and terrorist acts” against Syria and thus encouraging more violence, according to excerpts carried by the state-run news agency SANA.
Mass protests against al-Assad erupted in March last year, but gradually turned into an insurgency in response to a violent regime crackdown. Al-Assad’s regime denies it faces a popular uprising, claiming it is being targeted by a foreign-led terrorist conspiracy.
Saturday’s comments were the regime’s harshest against the UN since Syria announced last month it would abide by the Annan plan. The Syrian opposition and its Western backers say al-Assad is not sincere and is just buying time to consolidate his hold on Syria.
The regime “wants to make the UN a party to the conflict, rather than a mediator, and to stretch out the process to prevent any kind of serious change,” Rami Khoury, an analyst at the American University of Beirut, said of Saturday’s editorial.
However, the regime and its supporters argue that the world intentionally ignores rebel ceasefire violations, such as targeted killings of security officials, said Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group think tank, who has traveled in Syria.