Putin appears unmoved on Syria, rebels reject Annan terms | News | DW | 04.06.2012
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Putin appears unmoved on Syria, rebels reject Annan terms

At a St. Petersburg summit, EU officials hoped to persuade Russia to take a harder line against the Syrian government, with limited success. Syrian rebels have said they will no longer be bound by the terms of the plan.

Photos of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are seen during a pro-Syrian regime protest in front of the Russian embassy in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, March 4, 2012. (Foto:Muzaffar Salman/AP/dapd)

Bildergalerie Syrien März 2012

The EU tried to persuade Vladimir Putin to take a different tack on the conflict in Syria on Monday. Whether they were successful was unclear, though EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy did say they found common ground in the peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

"We fully agree that the Annan plan as a whole provides the best opportunity to break the cycle of violence in Syria ... avoiding a civil war," Van Rompuy said after the talks with Putin. "We need to combine our efforts in order for this to happen."

However, soon after summit leaders reaffirmed the Annan plan, Syrian rebels said they were no longer committed to it and called for the UN to turn its observer mission into a "peace enforcing mission," as well as the creation of a no-fly zone.

Russia'unhelpful'

Putin did not mention Syria in his comments to a press conference after the meeting. The West wants Moscow to put more pressure on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to comply with the terms of the April 12 cease-fire that he agreed to abide by.

"We need to make sure that Russia is using fully its leverage in convincing the regime to implement [the plan]," an EU official who declined to be named told the Reuters news agency ahead of the summit.

"The Russian side has certainly not been very helpful in finding solutions in terms of a political way out," the official said.

Russia - traditionally one of Syria's allies - and China have prevented the UN Security Council from slapping sanctions on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whose forces have been trying to put down a nearly 15-month uprising

A massacre that killed more than 100 people in the central Syrian town of Houla 10 days ago has increased the urgency of diplomatic efforts to end the fighting. An investigation into the massacre by a team of UN monitors found that forces loyal to Assad were most likely responsible for the killings.

On Sunday, Assad used a nationally televised address to parliament to deny that his forces had anything to do with the massacre.

rc, ncy/jlw (dapd, dpa, Reuters)