Syria peace plan last chance to avoid war, says Annan

Kofi Annan: "The level of violence and abuse is unacceptable"

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has told the Security Council that his peace plan could be the "last chance to avoid civil war" in Syria.

He told a closed session that the plan was "not an open-ended commitment" and highlighted continuing violations.

The Syrian army is now using fewer heavy arms, he said, but human rights violations appear to be intensifying.

His comments come after the Red Cross appealed for an extra $27m (£17m) to fund its Syria operation this year.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the only international aid agency working inside Syria, says hundreds of thousands of people remain in need of humanitarian assistance.

Rapid deployment urged

Mr Annan told the Security Council he was particularly concerned that torture, mass arrests and other human rights violations were "intensifying".

He also told the council that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bore "primary responsibility" for ending the military campaign.

After the briefing, he told a news conference that the ceasefire-monitoring mission was "the only remaining chance" to stabilise Syria.

Syrian supporters of President Bashar al-Assad chant pro-government slogans as they wait to cast their vote for the parliamentary elections at a polling station in Damascus on May 7, 2012. Some Syrians voted in parliamentary elections on Sunday, but opposition groups boycotted the polls

"There is a profound concern that the country could otherwise descend into civil war, and the implications of that are quite frightening. We cannot allow that to happen," he said.

The peace plan brokered by Mr Annan was agreed a month ago and includes the deployment of 300 UN monitors, but it has failed to end the violence in Syria.

America's UN envoy Susan Rice said Washington was committed to increasing the pressure on Mr Assad to step down.

"So far, it's plain that the Syria regime has not fully implemented any of the six points of JSE Kofi Annan's plan," she wrote on her Twitter feed.

In the latest incident activists said two civilians died in Idlib province.

While some parts of Syria have seen intermittent periods of calm, in many other areas there has been no let-up in the violence, the ICRC says.

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said he had doubts as to whether Mr Annan's ceasefire plan could succeed.

"For [it to succeed], the deployment of the UN observers really [has to be] a rapid deployment. So far, very few are there," he told the BBC.

Access plea

The ICRC said it has had one positive development, after gaining permission from the Syrian authorities to visit detainees in Aleppo prison later this month.

There are no clear figures about how many people have been detained since the conflict began, but the ICRC believes there are likely to be many thousands, most of whom have had no access to lawyers or to their families.

It also said gaining unrestricted access to conflict areas is a top priority. The organisation hopes to

  • provide food for 100,000 people
  • supply basic household items for 25,000
  • and to restore public services such as water and electricity to 1.5 million

To do that, it needs the co-operation of both the government and the opposition. Several Red Crescent workers have already been killed in the violence.

On Sunday, parliamentary elections promised last year by Mr Assad were held.

They were the first in 40 years not to guarantee a majority for the ruling Baath Party, but opposition groups dismissed them as a sham and called for a boycott.

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