Eight more killed in Syria as EU, Russia seek solutions
AFP DAMASCUS AT least eight people were killed in violence across Syria on Monday, as the European Union on Monday urged Russia to overcome differences over Syria to end 15 months of bloodshed.
In talks at Saint Petersburg with Russian President Vladimir Putin, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said the EU and Russia “might have some divergent assessments” of the situation in Syria.
The meeting came a day after President Bashar al Assad vowed to crush an anti-regime uprising after the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) announced on Friday that it was resuming “defensive operations.” Two rebels were killed in clashes with regime troops in Kafr Nabal town in the northwest province of Idlib, and two people were shot dead near the town of Ariha in the same province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Several explosions were also heard in the Jabal al-Zawiya region of Idlib, according to the Britain-based watchdog.
The main opposition Syrian National Council reported violence across Idlib, saying regime forces were using “tanks, rocket launchers and artillery” to bombard several parts of the province, a rebel stronghold neighbouring Turkey.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 19 soldiers, eight rebels and 19 civilians were killed in violence across the country on Sunday.
Fresh clashes erupted between the regime and its foes in Idlib province late on Sunday, killing two opposition fighters, as explosions were reported in Damascus province, the Observatory said.
Fighting continued on Monday with the Observatory saying Syrian forces used helicopter gunships to strafe positions in the northeastern province of Deir Ezzor, while at least eight people died in violence across Syria.
The towns targeted included Kafr Nabal, Jabal al-Zawiya, Maaret al-Numan, Ariha and Ramah, the SNC said.
Incidentally, Russia, alongside China, is opposed to military intervention in Syria and has resisted strong UN Security Council action against its Soviet-era ally.
Also pushing for a transition was US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said on Monday during a visit to Armenia that she spoke with UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to discuss the Syria crisis.
Annan has agreed to travel to Washington on Friday “to discuss next steps in his sixpoint plan and in particular political transition” in Syria, a senior State Department spokeswoman said.
A truce brokered by Annan has been violated daily since it went into effect on April 12, and 108 civilians, most of them women and children, were massacred in the central city of Houla last month.
Fears that Syria is on the brink of a civil war have mounted sharply since the massacre, which set off a storm of condemnation but no concerted international response as yet in the form of sanctions or stronger action.
Meanwhile Annan has demanded a “serious review” of deadlocked efforts to end the bloodshed and is stepping up pressure on international powers to put some muscle into their support for his peace plan or find a Plan B, diplomats said in New York.