“As of the end of January, 400 children are dead and more than 400 have been detained,” UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said at a briefing.
“There are reports of children arbitrarily arrested, tortured and sexually abused while in detention,” the agency added in a statement.
Mercado said the figures for children killed came from Syrian human rights groups “that we find to be credible.” The French Foreign Ministry says France is recalling its ambassador to Syria for consultations because of the continued crackdown by President Bashar Assad's regime on the population. Romain Nadal, a ministry spokesman, says the French Embassy in Damascus will remain open.
Spain also recalled its ambassador in Syria for consultations over the Damascus government’s deadly crackdown on protests. Tuesday's announcement comes as other Western powers including Britain, the United States and Italy have called back their top envoys in the wake of new violence in Syria.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will launch a “new initiative” with like-minded countries after the rejection of a UN resolution aimed at ending months-long bloodshed in Syria.
“We will start a new initiative with those countries who stand by the Syrian people, not the regime,” Erdogan said in Parliament, without elaborating. “We are working on this initiative,” Erdogan said, assuring that his government would utilize all diplomatic means to draw the world's attention to the Syrian crisis.
Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council, on Saturday blocked the UN resolution denouncing Syria for its deadly crackdown on protests. The move drew condemnation from other global powers as well as Turkey.
For his part, the Turkish premier said the Security Council vote gave the “license to kill to the hands of the tyrant,” referring to his one-time friend Assad. “We cannot remain silent to what is happening in Syria and we cannot turn our back on the Syrian people,” Erdogan said.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is planning to fly to the United States on Wednesday and meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for further discussions on Syria, diplomatic sources told AFP.
Meanwhile, Syrian forces renewed their bombardment of Homs on Tuesday as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds talks in Damascus with Assad to end the bloody crackdown on a popular revolt and carry out reforms. Lavrov confirmed Russia’s readiness to help resolve Syria crisis on basis of positions set out in Arab League initiative. He added that Assad was ready to seek dailogue with all political forces to defuse the Syrian crisis.
Activists said the fresh assault on Homs came after 95 people were killed on Monday in the city of one million people, a hub of protest and armed opposition against Assad. More than 200 were reported killed there on Friday night. “The bombardment is again concentrating on Baba Amro (district of Homs). A doctor tried to get in there this morning but I heard he was wounded,” Mohammad Al-Hassan, an activist in Homs, told Reuters. “There is no electricity and all communication with the neighborhood has been cut.” Authorities say the military is fighting “terrorists” in Homs bent on dividing and sabotaging the country. State media said “tens” of terrorists and six members of the security forces were killed in clashes there on Monday.
Lavrov and Russian Foreign Intelligence Service chief Mikhail Fradkov arrived in Damascus to meet Assad, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said. China is also considering sending an envoy to the Middle East to discuss the crisis in Syria, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
Syrian state television showed hundreds of people gathering on a main Damascus highway to welcome Lavrov. They were waving Syrian, Russian and Hezbollah flags and held up two Russian flags made out of hundreds of red, white and blue balloons. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby told Reuters he spoke to Lavrov on Monday and said the foreign minister would present an initiative to Damascus. Asked if he thought it could end the crisis, he replied: “They believe so.”
In another development, Lebanese authorities have detained two Lebanese men suspected of smuggling weapons and ammunition to insurgents in neighboring Syria, a judicial source said on Tuesday.
The source said a Lebanese military prosecutor issued an order authorizing detention of the two men over suspected trafficking in weapons and ammunition via the town of Arsal near the border.
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