Syria Live Coverage: Annan Quits, The Mass Killings Do Not        

Friday, August 3, 2012 at 6:12 | Scott Lucas in EA Middle East and Turkey, Middle East and Iran

0631 GMT: Syria and Turkey. On Thursday, we featured Ali Yenidunya’s analysis, “Ankara Looks to Iraq’s Barzani Amid the “Kurdish Spring“. The Kurdish site Rudaw follows up with news backing Yenidunya’s assessment, “Turkey will have ‘no red lines’ about a settlement, provided the plans dealt with the position of the Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD), the Syrian branch of the outlawed Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)”:

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Kurdish president Massoud Barzani during a meeting yesterday evening that his government does not oppose Kurdish unity and rights in Syria but warned about the presence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Syria….

Davutoglu who met with Barzani in Kurdistan’s capital city, Erbil, said the Democratic Union Party [PYD], a Syrian Kurdish party, is exploiting the weakening and expected collapse of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its goals.

0515 GMT: Syria. The headlines in the world’s press this morning will be of the resignation of United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan after six months of efforts for a political resolution. Annan’s mandate was not due to expire until 31 August but he said that he was leaving now amid difficulties such as “finger-pointing and name-calling” in the UN Security Council.

Our argument, however — put forward in an audio feature to be posted this morning — is that Annan’s decision is no more than a sideshow. His high-profile six-point plan for a transition and end to violence, set out in April, never had a hope of succeeding. The UN quarrelling was only a secondary reason; instead, the initial barrier — never lowered — was the refusal of the Assad regime to pull back forces and cease attacks in Syrian cities.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s real headline story was the continuing mass killings. The day started with news of two assaults in Damascus suburbs, Jdeidat Artouz and Yalda, which activists said killed at least 85 people; it ended with claims of more than 50 deaths in the Arbaeen neighbourhood of Hama. The Local Coordination Committees asserted, “Rocket launchers were erected near the roundabout, snipers were deployed atop the surrounding buildings, and…the international road Aleppo-Hama [was] sealed off by tanks.”

And medical sources say at least 20 people were killed and 65 wounded on Thursday when Syrian security forces fired three mortar rounds at the Yarmouk camp, home to Palestinian refugees, in Damascus.Witnesses said the mortars hit a busy street as people were preparing an Iftar meal to break the Ramadan fast.

“I saw it all, I was going to my house when the first round hit the street, people ran to check the damage when the second one hit the same area,” a resident said. “Many people were killed immediately.” Yarmouk camp is home to more than 100,000 people.