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Alistair Dawber: Kofi Annan has achieved all that he could through talk – but this is not a ceasefire

The West, stymied by Russia and China in the UN, is achieving little beyond sitting and waiting

There was probably nobody better than Kofi Annan to try to broker a ceasefire in Syria. And Kofi Annan probably brokered the best possible deal. But it is a mockery to suggest that a ceasefire exists if President Assad is killing those who demand his exit.

Thirty UN peace monitors arrived in Damascus last night, following a band of similarly well-intentioned observers from the Arab League last year. This wholly inadequate number will quickly find, however, that in real terms there is no peace to monitor.

Reports and pictures from Homs yesterday suggest that Assad's forces are continuing their bombardment of the city and that in the north, anti-regime demonstrators are still being shot.

It is true that the level of violence has dropped off since last Thursday's ceasefire deadline, but the international community is burying its collective head in the blood-soaked Syrian desert if it believes that the Annan plan is the solution to the crisis.

David Cameron said last week that Assad faced a "day of reckoning" when he will have to answer for the killing of, so far, more than 9,000 of his own people. The Prime Minister may prove to be right, but the truth is that the West, stymied by the Russians and Chinese at the UN, is achieving little beyond sitting and waiting to see what happens. At the same time Assad is acting with impunity, and is growing in confidence since his bloody two-month campaign in Homs has gone unpunished.

The international community cannot sit behind the Annan plan as a credible framework for peace. If it does, it risks returning to the same debates in coming months where the only difference will be a dramatically increased body count.

The West may argue that it is hamstrung because Moscow and Beijing will not play ball, while the Gulf nations feed weapons to the rebels and complain that the rest of the world is passing the buck. Now, more than a year after it began, all this jaw-jaw is doing nothing to stop the war.