Assad: Syria in a state of war, UN: Mission impossible
More clashes broke out in Syria on Wednesday.
The state media reported gunmen raided the headquarters of a pro-government Syrian TV station early in the day, demolishing the building and killing three employees. Officials denounced what they called a rebel "massacre against the freedom of the press."
More violence was reported on the outskirts of Damascus Tuesday morning, between Syria’s elite Republican Guard forces – a 10,000-man bodyguard unit of the Syrian Army – and rebels. At least six people are reported killed.
Syria’s President Bashar Assad himself acknowledged that his country is now in a state of war. He was speaking on Tuesday at the first cabinet meeting of the newly sworn-in government. President Assad ordered the cabinet to direct all their efforts to beating the armed opposition.
"We live in a real state of war from all angles," he said. "When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war."
UN forces in Syria repeatedly came under fire before the organization suspended its 300-member mission on June 16. Back then, the mission's head, Major-General Robert Mood, told the UN Security Council that the observers had suffered direct fire at least 10 times and had been in several indirect fire incidents. Also, nine UN vehicles had been damaged or had come under fire, AP reports.
Nevertheless, the mission could yet potentially resume its activity. A diplomat, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity, said that Herve Ladsous, the UN peacekeeping chief, had told a closed council meeting that the mission could restart at some point, but that for the time being it is too dangerous.
In an effort to quell the violence and resume the six-point peace plan, UN envoy Kofi Annan put forward an initiative to hold an international conference in Geneva on Saturday. It will include all permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as representatives of the European Union and other countries who have influence on either side of the Syrian conflict, such as Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Kofi Annan has made it clear that Iran should be part of the solution process as Tehran has close ties with Syria. Western countries have been critical of this move, but Russia supports it. Addressing the media, its UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, also said that apart from attending the conference it is also important to refrain from any provocation in Syria, such as arming its opposition.
“All those selfish national agendas in the context of Syria have not worked. The only thing they helped generate is further aggravation of the situation and growing violence,” he said. “It’s time to get serious and to make sure that we all exercise our leverage on whoever we can exercise leverage on in Syria in order to revert to the implementation of the Kofi Annan plan.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has officially accepted the invitation to come to the conference. Washington, however, has yet to make it clear whether it will be sending its representatives. However, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, confirmed an invitation had been received.