Is Syria's ceasefire officially dead?
Syrian rebels announced Monday that they were abandoning their commitment to U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's ceasefire plan, because, they said, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad had never respected it anyway. In the wake of the May 25 Houla massacre, which has been blamed on pro-Assad forces, opposition fighters had given the government until last Friday to end the violence. After the deadline passed, Free Syrian Army forces reportedly killed 80 government soldiers in a surge of attacks over the weekend. Annan, who is briefing the United Nations Security Council and meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this Friday, called on international leaders to step up their efforts to enforce his peace plan, which he said was the "only option on the table." At this point, though, is it safe to say that the ceasefire deal is a lost cause?
The ceasefire is history: The latest violence makes it official: "The Annan plan is dead and there is no Plan B," says Linda Carbonell at Lez Get Real. Russia and China say they're on board with Annan's plan, but "they are still resisting any new sanctions or intervention," and "Russia, like Iran, is ignoring bans on arms sales to Syria's government." Assad compares the killing in Homs and Houla "to a surgeon removing a cancerous growth to save the life of the patient" — when a leader considers his people to be a cancer, there can be no peace.
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Annan's plan was never really alive: Let's be honest, says Oliver Holmes at Reuters, Annan's ceasefire "was supposed to take effect on April 12 but never did." The weekend's violence and a "defiant speech by Assad on Sunday" merely confirmed that, in practice, there was no ceasefire to abandon. And if anything dealt a "fatal blow" to Annan's peace proposal, it was the slaughter in Houla of at least 108 civilians, nearly half of them children.
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It's up to world leaders to put the ceasefire into action: World leaders all say they support Annan's plan — even the Russians insist Annan's plan is "the only way forward," says Jim Muir at BBC News. "What seems to be missing from the equation" is a united front to pressure Russia — which is sending arms to Syria and protecting it from tougher sanctions — into telling Assad to stop the shooting. Moscow had the leverage to get Assad to accept the ceasefire; if Russia wanted to, it could convince its longtime Middle East ally to actually implement it.
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