The initial excitement over an international plan for transition to democracy in Syria seems to be waning as both the Syrian opposition and state media have deemed it a failure. Meanwhile, the death toll is mounting.
World leaders in Geneva on Saturday agreed to a plan calling for a transitional government in Syria that includes members of Bashar al-Assad's regime, as well as the opposition.
Catering for Russian demands, the plan does not exclude anyone from the transitional government and leaves its future makeup in the hands of both Assad's administration and the opposition. The two sides are meant to agree to the government's composition via "mutual consent."
There was no official comment from Damascus, but the state media said on Sunday that the plan would not end the crisis.
"Solving the Syrian crisis cannot take place without Syria and its people who are capable of launching a national dialogue," the state-run newspaper Al-Baath wrote in an editorial.
The opposition, in a rare show of agreement with the regime, agreed that the plan would not help solve the crisis.
"We know that a political treatment is required for this complex situation, but it is not acceptable to jump over all sacrifices made by the Syrian people who demand the ouster of the regime," Abdul-Basset Sayda, the head of the opposition Syrian National Council, told the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.
Western powers have acknowledged that the demand for "mutual consent" could slow the process, but they insist that the plan empowers the opposition by putting it on an equal footing with Assad.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went a step further, pointing out that the plan's essence really requires Assad's departure because there is no chance he can meet the "mutual consent" requirement.
"What we have done here is to strip away the fiction that he and those with blood on their hands can stay in power," she said.
International envoy Kofi Annan also said he could not imagine Syrians choosing anyone with blood on their hands to lead the country.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointed out, however, that the plan excludes no one.
Annan has said time is running out for stemming the increasing violence, which many fear could spill over Syria's border and lead to a regional crisis.
Syrian forces on Sunday bombed and shelled towns across the country on Sunday, including the nearly deserted streets of opposition districts near the capital Damascus. Residents of the Zamalka district struggled to bury dozens of people killed on Saturday in a mortar attack during an anti-Assad march.
Also on Sunday, Turkey said it scrambled jet fighters to its border a day earlier after Syrian helicopters flew too close to its border. This comes just over a week after Syria downed a Turkish military plane, raising fears over escalating cross-border tensions.
At least 43 people were killed across Syria on Sunday. The main opposition group said nearly 800 have been killed in the past week. According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, some 15,800 people have been killed in the 15-month-old uprising against President Assad.
tm/ccp (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)