The EU has slapped fresh sanctions on Syria and reaffirmed its support for an international peace plan. But its confidence in the UN-backed strategy is not shared by all diplomatic circles, as violence there persists.
The European Union imposed fresh sanctions on Syria's government on Monday, condemning the “appalling violence” which continues to rage across the country.
"The continuing violence is appalling," said EU foreign policy coordinator Catherine Ashton. "As long as the repression continues, we will continue to put pressure on those responsible for it."
Ashton said her organization had delivered a fleet of 25 armored vehicles to bolster a United Nations observer mission, which was deployed to the country as part of UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan.
Doubts about peace plan
But, elsewhere on the diplomatic front, the Saudi Foreign Minister articulated his skeptism about the effectiveness of Annan's peace-making strategy.
"The violence is still continuing, the bloodshed is still continuing. Nothing has been accomplished except the violence has lessened. The violence continues... nobody is satisfied," Saud al-Faisal told reporters at a news conference in Riyadh after a meeting attended by other Arab leaders on Monday.
"Confidence in the efforts of the envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League has started to decrease quickly," he added.
At the same time, though Russia defended its decision to continue to supply Syria, its longtime ally, with "defensive arms."
"It is very sad to see very powerful foreign support for the opposition - both financial and military. This foreign support only emboldens the diehard opposition, prompting them to continue their terrorist activity," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told reporters in Moscow.
The violence continues
Meanwhile, Syrian troops launched an assault on a central rebel stronghold Monday, resulting in scores of deaths
Regime forces had launched an attack on Rastan over the weekend and were matched with a strong backlash from opponents. According the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian soldiers shelled the city on Sunday and again on Monday. Three civilians were also left dead in southern Daraa province and there was one fatal casualty in Quraya in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor on Monday, according to the Observatory. Such reports are difficult to verify due to severe restrictions on journalists in the country.
The danger of a spill-over effect of the conflict was also made clear on Monday, when shooting broke out between Lebanese gunmen in the country's second-largest city, Tripoli, due to differences over Syria, according to local residents. Lebanon and Syria share volatile sectarian and political ties, which have led to fears that violence could spread across the border.
More than 12,000 people have been killed in the Syrian uprising that commenced in March 2011.
sej/pfd (AP, AFP, Reuters)