Syria Peace Deal: Questions Remain

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. Two announcements today from the United Nations regarding the bloodshed in Syria. On the one hand, the UN said the death toll from the year long Syrian conflict has surpassed 9,000 people. On the other hand, UN and Arab envoy Kofi Annan said the government of President Bashar al-Assad has finally accepted a six point peach plan. But there's a lot of skepticism about that. The United States, for one, says it would be best to look for action, not words, from the Syrian authorities, and anti-government activists say the fighting in Syria continues. Borzou Daragahi of the Financial Times is in Beirut. Borzou, what is the latest on the violence and does that figure from the UN of 9,000 dead people square with the reports you've heard of the current situation on the ground?

Borzou Daragahi: Oh, I think at least 9,000 people dead. We're talking also maybe thousands missing either in prison or buried in mass graves by the regime's forces and also possibly by anti regime militants who've taken part in revenge attacks. Today there's reports that in the northern province of Idlib in Syria there was a mass execution in the town of [inaudible 1:13], where more than 20 people were executed and then the relatives of those people were told to come to the town's square and collect the bodies of their dead. This has not been confirmed. This is from a activist network that I found very reliable in the past year reporting on Syria.

Werman: So what do all these reports, Borzou, imply for this peace plan that Kofi Annan has developed?

Daragahi: Look, I mean I and many other close observers of the Syrian conflict have a lot of doubts about the regime's sincerity in abiding by any peace plan. Again and again over the past year, and I want to stay as balanced as possible in saying this, you know, the Syrian regime has not been straightforward about its sort of diplomatic efforts. It was appeared to be using diplomatic efforts as a kind of space to step up violence against its enemies, and it seems far more interested in physically liquidating the opposition than in making any kind of reconciliation or deal with them.

Werman: Now, on paper the peace plan looks like a simple ceasefire that would leave Bashar al-Assad in power. Is that right?

Daragahi: Yeah, I didn't see anything interesting about it other than you know, increasing the release of prisoners, not even acknowledging that the regime has not released prisoners as it has promised in the past, and this sort of vague talk of a political reconciliation; there is nothing there except opening up humanitarian lines to civilians and to stop targeting civilians. But you know, Kofi Annan says that the Syrian regime has accepted this plan. I haven't heard anything from the Syrian regime itself saying that they've accepted this plan.

Werman: Now whether it's related to the peace plan or not, Kofi Annan went to Homs to inspect the damage there and to greet supporters. One comment today that I read in a report came from an opposition support in Syria who said that Assad's visit to Homs is simply a green light to kill again. Does he have a legitimate concern?

Daragahi: I think he does have a legitimate concern. I think this was not meant as a reconciliation. I think that Bashar al-Assad's visit to Homs was sort of like a Roman conqueror arriving to you know, to inspect the Visigoths they've just conquered. And that's really the way many Syrians saw this visit to Homs, especially to the Baba Amr district, which has been the opposition stronghold that has been destroyed with like a Grozny-like veracity. So I don't think anyone sees this as a step towards reconciliation. It's seen as an attempt at humiliating and declaring victory over the opposition.

Werman: Borzou Daragahi of the Financial Times in Beirut, thank you very much.

Daragahi: It's been a pleasure.

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