Syrian Foreign Ministry denies government role in Houla killings; Free Syrian Army blames government; UNSC resolution condemns Houla attacks; Russia sees Syrian diplomats’ expulsion as “counterproductive”; Russia to limited to political support to Syria a
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  • (MAY 28-JUNE 3)

    According to reports, the Syrian Foreign Ministry has denied that government forces were responsible for the massacre of more than 100 people, including women and children, in the village of Houla on May 25, 2012. The spokesman extended condolences and condemned the “ease” with which Syrian government forces have been accused by foreign governments and media outlets. Separate government statements accused “foreign-funded armed terrorist groups” for the Houla events and attacks in other parts of the country. 1

    Meanwhile, a Syrian Foreign Ministry statement stressed that the government is determined to find those responsible; it also added that the Syrian Army carried out its duty and defended innocent civilians during clashes with terrorist groups. The Ministry has stated that initial intelligence pointed to the killings being premeditated and that those killed were targeted for being supporters of the Syrian government. The government has set up a committee to investigate the Houla incident. 2 However, the state-run Syrian news agency reported that “al-Qaidah-linked terrorist groups” had committed the massacres in two separate towns in the Homs province. 3 The opposition Free Syrian Army has stated it holds the government responsible for the killings. 4

    Reports noted that UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan has expressed his shock at the incidents in Houla. Annan has urged the Syrian government to signal that it is serious in resolving this crisis peacefully and requested implementation of the six-point plan. The Security Council has requested a UN investigation of the attacks. 5 Forty-one member countries of the UN Human Rights Council, including India, voted for a resolution strongly condemning the Houla incident. Indian Permanent Representative to the UN Hardeep Puri said that the incident underscored the importance of complete cessation of violence. The resolution has requested the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry to investigate the killings. 6

    Meanwhile, according to reports, following the expulsion of Syrian ambassadors and diplomats from several countries after the May 25 Houla killings, Russia has said that it sees this as “counterproductive”, as this has led to the closing of diplomatic channels through which the international community could exchange opinion and exercise its influence on the Syrian government. The Foreign Ministry spokesman also stated that Russia continues to maintain intensive contacts not only with the Syrian government but also with various opposition groups. 7

    A Russian newspaper report has stated that Moscow has decided to limit itself to political support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and will not provide economic support. The report followed a session of the Russian-Syrian intergovernmental commission held on May 25, during which the Syrian Finance Minister presented a host of proposals to further economic cooperation between the two countries. 8

    • 1. “Syrian foreign ministry denies government forces behind Al-Hawlah "massacre"”, Syrian TV satellite service, May 27, 2012
    • 2. “Syrian letter to UN details Friday massacre by "terror groups"”, SANA news agency, May 28, 2012
    • 3. “"Al-Qa'idah-linked" group reportedly commits fresh massacres in Syria”, SANA news agency, May 26, 2012
    • 4. “Free Syrian Army commander slams Al-Hawlah "massacre", holds regime responsible “, Al-Jazeera TV, May 27, 2012
    • 5. “UN envoy to Syria Annan "shocked" by Houla massacre “, SANA news agency, May 28, 2012
    • 6. “India votes for UN resolution condemning Syria massacre”, The Hindu, June 2, 2012
    • 7. “Russia says Syrian ambassadors' expulsion counterproductive in peace settlement”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, May 30, 2012
    • 8. “Russia to take tough, pragmatic line on economic cooperation with Syria – paper”, Kommersant, May 25, 2012