05/17/2012, 00.00
SYRIA

Syrian army shells al-Rastan as apostolic nuncio fully backs Annan plan

The city in Homs Governatorate has been under siege for months. Mgr Zenari highlights the cycle of violence that is sweeping across the country. The prelate urges the UN and the international community to push for the peace plan despite the fighting and violence.

Damascus (AsiaNews) - Violence continues in Syria after bombs killed 55 people and injured hundreds more in Damascus on 10 May. Today, the Syrian army shelled the rebel stronghold of al-Rastan (Homs Governorate), about 80 km north of Damascus.

According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the army is getting ready for a final assault against the city, which has been the scene of months of fighting between regular soldiers and members of the Free Syrian Army, which has one of its headquarters in the city.

"The situation in Syria is of grave concern. The international community must strongly back Kofi Annan's plan," Mgr Mario Zenari told AsiaNews.

For the prelate, who has been apostolic nuncio in Damascus since 2009, the army and the rebels stopped using heavy weapons when UN observers were first deployed.

"Even though violence continues, we must give the UN-Arab League plan its due by backing every small success," Mgr Zenari said.

This is especially important now because the war has reached a dangerous point, full of hatred and desire for vengeance, even among civilians. The climate is so tense that "each death calls for more".

Accepted on 12 April, the peace plan elaborate by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan calls for an end to violence, the gradual implementation of a ceasefire, humanitarian aid, the release of people jailed without trial, free movement of journalists and the beginning of political dialogue between the government and the opposition.

So far, pressures from the United Nations Security Council on rebels and regime have failed to stop the fighting, which continues to claim lives.

UN observers sent to Syria to monitor the plan's implementation have themselves come under fire. On Wednesday, a UN convoy came under attack in Khan Shaykhun, Idlib Governorate, but no one was killed or wounded. At the time, army forces attacked a funeral procession killing more than 20 people.

For the nuncio, the cycle of violence must be broken. "Despite the attacks, the UN must continue its work in Syria even though the two sides do not fully respect the ceasefire or the peace plan they both signed," the prelate said.

Meanwhile, cracks in the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) have started to appear. The group, which is supported and financed by Syrian exiles, lost its president today. Burhan Ghalioun resigned following a split between the SNC and local coordination committees. The latter claim that the external body has lost the support of the Syrian people in the fight against the Assad regime.

The conflict followed Ghalioun's recent re-election as SNC president over rival George Sabra by only ten votes. For local committees, Sabra, a Christian, is the only leader who can free the SNC from the pressures of the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

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