As international pressure mounts for a crackdown on Syria in the wake of the Houla massacre, UN peace envoy Kofi Annan aims to demand "bold steps" from President Bashar al-Assad at his meeting today. Annan will attempt to hold Syria's feet to the fire on the six-point peace plan that the nation has so far largely ignored, and to press for accountability for the killing of 108 civilians, including 49 children, in Houla—an assault Syrian officials continue to blame on "terrorists," notes the BBC. Even Syria's longtime ally, Russia, appears to be losing patience with the Syrian leadership, and condemned the attack, which was followed by more killings in Hama. Increasing criticism from Russia appears to be a clear message to Assad to change course or lose Moscow's support, reports AP.
"The government bears the main responsibility for what is going on," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Moscow yesterday following a meeting with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "Any government in any country bears responsibility for the security of its citizens." Assad "is driving himself and Russia into a corner," said Middle East expert Alexei Malashenko. "Bashar has definitely gotten the sense that he may lose Russia's sympathy, and he may step back a bit."