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In the News
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11-04-2012

Prospects for Syria Truce Narrow as Violence Spikes Before April 10 Deadline for Military Withdrawal 

Representatives from over 60 countries met for the 'Friends of Syria' conference in Istanbul on April 1 and agreed to channel millions of dollars into Syria in support of the country's opposition. At the same time and in a highly controversial move, conference attendees proclaimed the Syrian National Council "a legitimate representative of all Syrians". On Monday, UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan announced that the Syrian government had officially agreed to a complete military withdrawal from the country's urban areas by April 10. The following day, however, violent military incursions and security crackdowns continued in full force across the country - driving foreign officials to call Damascus's commitment to the peace plan into question. At the same time, a surge of international reportage suggests that Syrian revolutionaries are increasingly disillusioned by the relative inaction of the international community and the ongoing security crackdowns, with calls from among their ranks for weaponry increasing daily. The death toll from the last ten days of violence has already surpassed 700.

In the News
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29-03-2012

Damascus Accepts UN Peace Plan, Arab Leaders Meet in Baghdad to Discuss Syria Crisis, Death Toll Nears 10,000

On Tuesday, March 27, the Syrian government accepted the peace plan set forth by UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan. The move by Damascus has been met with cautious optimism by some, and deep skepticism by many others as violence continues to shake the country, with reports also emerging of growing clashes along the country's sensitive border with Lebanon. Today, marks the start of a three-day meeting of Arab leaders in Baghdad, Iraq, the focus of which is the crisis in Syria. While attendees have thus far reiterated calls for Damascus to adhere to Annan's peace plan and implement an immediate cease-fire, none have expressed willingness to move beyond harsh words. In just a few days, the much anticipated 'Friends of Syria' summit is set to convene in Istanbul, Turkey. In advance of the meeting, members of Syria's opposition have focused on efforts to unify and expand their ranks, with few clear signs of success. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights now puts the total death toll from the uprising at a staggering 9,734.

In the News
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21-03-2012

UN Security Council Issues Statement Supporting Annan Peace Plan on Heels of Damascus, Aleppo Bombings

The UN Security Council issued a presidential statement on Wednesday, March 21 in support of Kofi Annan's proposed peace plan for Syria. The non-binding statement calls for a ceasefire, two-hour daily halts to the violence for the provision of humanitarian aid, and Syria-led political dialogue aimed at addressing "the legitimate concerns of the Syrian people". The Russia-backed statement, however, comes only with the threat of the UNSC considering "further measures" in the event of Damascus's noncompliance. Just days earlier, a series of deadly bombings rocked the country's capital and the northern city of Aleppo, a nightmarish start to the second year of the revolution.

In the News
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15-03-2012

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the uprising in Syria. Thousands of articles on the recent events, the country's history, culture, religious dynamics, economy, and role in the Middle East, have been published since March 2011. Wading through the press in search of a glimpse of truth, whatever one might expect or believe that to be, is daunting. The outcome is often a series of divergent perspectives that leave one with more questions than answers. In commemoration of the past year of the country's revolution, this post puts forth a series of compelling articles on Syria. Except for one, the January 31, 2011 Wall Street Journal interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, all were published within the last year. Many are poignant, others academic, still others are likely construed as controversial, but all are worth reading for the various perspectives they offer on the current situation and the issues from which it stemmed. 

In the News
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15-03-2012

Military Operations in Idlib, Daraa Rage as Annan Awaits Clarification from Damascus on Peace Proposals

UN-Arab League Syria envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus on Saturday, March 10 to initiate talks on his "concrete proposals" for a peace plan for the country. The plans reportedly entailed a comprehensive ceasefire, the start of political dialogue, and the distribution of humanitarian aid. Following a weekend of meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian religious leaders, and members of the internal opposition, however, Annan left Damascus empty-handed. Yesterday, the envoy reportedly received a response from Damascus to the proposals - details for which remain unannounced. The conflict remains entirely unabated, however, as government forces intensify operations in Idlib and now Daraa, and reports of alleged massacres of civilians in Homs continue to emerge.

In the News
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08-03-2012

Syrian Pound Plummets, Fears of Grave Poverty Spike, UN Aid Chief Arrives in Syria and Proclaims Homs 'Devastated'

Following a 27-day broad-scale military assault on the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr, armed members of the Syrian opposition declared a 'tactical retreat' from the area on March 1. Syrian military forces regained control of the neighborhood, though it was not until nearly a week later that the Syrian Red Crescent was permitted entry to deliver aid. A number of foreign embassies closed their doors in Syria this week in response to the country's still worsening security crisis and widespread UN and international claims that Syrian forces are committing crimes against humanity in the response to the opposition. Early this week, the Syrian government granted UN aid chief Valerie Amos a visa to the country with her arrival in Damascus on Wednesday viewed as a primer for that of UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan. Annan is set to arrive in Syria on Saturday, March 10 to help broker a peace plan. Critically, the Syrian pound plunged to a new low of 105 to the US dollar today, fueling the country's growing economic crisis and fears among many Syrians of a collapse into grave poverty.

In the News
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01-03-2012

Weekly posts in the Syria News Blog will resume next Thursday, March 08, 2012. Thank you for your patience. 

In the News
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23-02-2012

UN Accuses Syria of Crimes Against Humanity as Foreign Leaders Prepare for 'Friends of Syria' Meeting in Tunisia

Today, a report released by the United Nations and submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, accuses the Syrian government of committing "gross human rights violations" tantamount to "crimes against humanity". The report, derived from 360 interviews with individuals inside Syria, also charges that security crackdowns constituted state policy from coming from “the highest levels of the armed forces and the government”. The same report, however, also charges the Free Syrian Army, an armed element of the opposition, of committing serious abuses. To that end, as violence continues to deepen across the country, Syrian officials continue to adamantly charge that they are fighting against armed terrorist groups - an allegation now partially echoed in some parts of Washington, as a number of senior American officials claim that the terrorist group Al-Qaeda is behind some of the country's violence. The same US officials did not publicly put forth related evidence. Last week, the UN General Assembly voted resoundingly in favor of a resolution condemning the violence in Syria. Tomorrow, officials from around the world will convene in Tunisia as part of a new 'Friends of Syria' group focused on addressing Syria's crisis.

In the News
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16-02-2012

UN General Assembly to Vote Today on New Syria Resolution, Turkey and Arab League Initiate Planning for Humanitarian Corridor

Today, the UN General Assembly is scheduled to vote on a resolution strongly condemning the violence in Syria. The vote will be held in the afternoon, just hours after UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon accused Damascus of committing crimes against humanity during the crackdown against the opposition. In the central city of Homs, the military incursion continues as government forces continue to fight areas that it charges are overrun with terrorists. In the background, the international community continues to debate how to respond to the crisis, with the Arab League and Turkey now pushing for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has promised to hold a referendum on the country's new constitution in two weeks, eventually leading to country-wide elections. Meanwhile, the crisis continues to deepen; violence begets violence.

In the News
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09-02-2012

UNSC Resolution on Syria Vetoed as Conflict in Homs Intensifies 

On Saturday, February 4, following several days of intensive negotiations, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria. The vote was held in a rare weekend session, with thirteen member states including France, Britain, and the US voting in favor of the resolution. The vote came as violence in the central city of Homs surged, with unconfirmed casualty reports numbering in the hundreds. Two days later, the US Department of State announced the closure of its embassy in Damascus and the withdrawal of its diplomatic personnel from the country. Six Arab states followed suit on Tuesday, signaling Damascus's deepening isolation.