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On 21 March, the UN Security Council supported a peace plan devised by Kofi Annan that called for a ceasefire, humanitarian access to Syria and the withdrawal of forces from urban areas. All sides declared their willingness to adhere to the plan. The Annan plan is at present the only hope of ending the accelerating violence in Syria, which has now caused more than 9,000 deaths, according to UN estimates.

• After the Russian and Chinese veto on 4 February, the level of violence appeared to increase, testing Russia’s patronage of the regime

• Kofi Annan has been appointed special envoy and has proposed a new plan to end the violence but the Syrian government’s sincerity in accepting the plan is widely questioned and the UN said in April that the government is “failing to keep the truce”

• It remains difficult to know exactly what is happening in Syria as the government restricts journalists’ access, but more United Nations observers are due to arrive in Syria, which may damp down the violence somewhat

• Syria has become part of larger conflicts between Western powers and Iran, between Western powers and Russia, and between Sunnis and Shiites

• It is difficult to see any plan for international military intervention being successfully implemented, although the possibility should not be ruled out. Any intervention, including arming the rebels, may have the effect of making the violence worse

• UK and EU policy remains the implementation of sanctions and the provision of humanitarian assistance where this is possible

• The regime enjoys support of perhaps 30% of the population. Whether a negotiated settlement can be reached is debatable

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