Kofi Annan
Photo: AFP

'Syria fails to withdraw military from cities'

UN envoy Annan says despite ceasefire, Syria gov't failed to withdraw troops, heavy arms from cities; Security Council discusses observer mission

International envoy Kofi Annan told the UN Security Council Thursday that despite the fragile ceasefire in Syria, the government has failed to implement the council demand that it withdraw troops and heavy weapons from cities and towns, UN diplomats said.


The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because Annan's briefing was behind closed doors, said the joint UN-Arab League envoy urged the Security Council to demand that Syrian President Bashar Assad order his troops back to barracks.


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In a statement issued before the briefing, Annan said he was "encouraged" that a ceasefire appeared to be holding and asked for speedy deployment of an observer mission to help keep the peace.


Syrian forces in Idlib on Thursday


The diplomats said the council was discussing a resolution on deployment of an observer mission which could be adopted as early as Friday. South Africa's UN Ambassador Baso Sangqu said discussions on the text would begin Thursday afternoon.


'Gunshot could derail truce'

Annan and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Syrian government to keep its promises to implement the envoy's six-point peace plan.


Ban told a news conference in Geneva that a single gunshot could derail the fragile peace and that it was up to Syria to maintain the ceasefire.


"As of this moment the situation looks calmer. We are following it very closely," Ban said.


"The world is watching, however, with skeptical eyes, since many promises previously made by the government of Syria had not been kept. The onus is on the government of Syria to prove that their words will be matched by their deeds at this time," he said.


Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Clinton said that Group of Eight foreign ministers welcomed Annan's report that violence in Syria had abated, "at least for the moment."


Speaking to reporters after the foreign ministers met in Washington, Clinton said the ceasefire in Syria was an important step, but was just one element of Annan's plan. She added that the plan was not a "menu of options" and that humanitarian groups must have access to Syria.


Observer mission to be approved?

Annan's spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, has told reporters that the UN-backed observer mission would have about 200 to 250 observers and that nations were being asked to contribute soldiers.


Ban said the mission could get going almost as soon as it gains authorization and that he expects Russia to support it, based on talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday.


"It is difficult to fully assess the situation on the ground, in the absence of UN observers. And therefore we are working with the Security Council to send an observer team as promptly as possible," Ban told reporters.


Shortly after the 6 am deadline passed Thursday, there was no sign of heavy shelling or rocket attacks in Syria. But five civilians were reported killed and Syria's state-run news agency said "terrorist groups" detonated a roadside bomb that killed a soldier.


Roi Kais contributed to the report




פרסום ראשון: 04.12.12, 20:47
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