France has said it wants to make Kofi Annan's Syria peace plan mandatory. Meanwhile, tension between the US and Russia has increased over the latter's supply of attack helicopters to Syria.
France will propose to make UN peace envoy Kofi Annan’s Syria peace plan obligatory by invoking the UN’s Chapter 7 provision, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday, warning that the situation in Syria now constituted a "civil war."
"We propose making the implementation of the Annan plan compulsory," he said at a news conference.
"We need to pass to the next speed at the Security Council and place the Annan plan under Chapter 7 - that is to say make it compulsory under pain of very heavy sanctions."
Chapter 7 enables the UN Council to take either military or non-military action to restore peace and security in an area where peace is deemed to have been violated or threatened.
Fabius said he hoped Russia would back his idea. He also announced that France would propose strengthening sanctions against Syria at the next EU foreign ministers meeting. He said a list of second-ranking Syrian military leaders to target would be compiled.
"They must understand that the only future is in resisting oppression. The time for taking a decision has arrived. They have to jump ship," Fabius said.
Russia and the US at odds
France's comments came as tension between Russia and the US over the international response to the Syria crisis intensified, with Washington accusing Russia of delivering attack helicopters to Syria.
"We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
The Kremlin responded by saying its supplying of equipment to Syria did not violate UN regulations. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov added that weapons sold to Damascus were for defensive purposes and not to be deployed against peaceful protesters, according to reports by the news agency Interfax.
A setback for the rebels
Meanwhile, in Syria, rebel fighters suffered a setback; they withdrew from the besieged mountainous area of Haffa after they endured eight days of heavy shelling, according to monitors.
Rebels who withdrew from Haffa, in Latakia province on the Mediterranean, described their departure as a tactical move to prevent further bloodshed amongst local residents, adding that they were seeking "to avoid falling into the regime's civil war trap."
As the pull-out took place, the Syrian government slammed US comments that regime forces could carry out further killings in the area as "interference."
It was not clear whether UN observers stationed in Syria would be able to reach Haffa, although a spokesperson for the observers, Sausan Ghosheh, said they had been attempting to do so since June 7.
Elsewhere, government troops shelled the city of Homs and the nearby rebel strongholds of Rastan and Khaldiyeh. There were also reports of shelling in Houla, where 108 people were massacred in late May.
sej/ncy (Reuters, AP, AFP)
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