Syrian authorities have told international mediator Kofi Annan that they have begun withdrawing troops from three areas, Deraa, Idlib and Zabadani, his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said on Thursday.
Fawzi also said that U.N. member states were being asked to provide troops to a ceasefire monitoring mission, to be deployed in Syria after April 10. An advance team sent by Annan was due to arrive in Damascus on Thursday to begin discussing their deployment, which requires a U.N. Security Council resolution, according to Reuters.
“Yes they have told us that they have begun withdrawing troops from certain areas,” Fawzi told a news briefing in Geneva. “They have specified 3 cities - Deraa, Idlib and Zabadani.”
An advance team sent by Annan arrived in Damascus on Thursday to begin discussing their full deployment, which requires a U.N. Security Council resolution.
“The planning team is all in Damascus now. There are about 10 or 11 of them,” Fawzi later told Reuters.
But the team would not be involved in trying to pin down reports of withdrawals, he said.
Annan expects both the Syrian government and the opposition to fully implement a ceasefire agreement by Apr. 12, Fawzi said.
“What we expect on April 10 is that the Syrian government will have
completed its withdrawal from populated centers ... and then we begin a 48-hour period during which there will be a complete cessation of all forms of violence by all parties,” Fawzi told reporters.
“So the clock starts ticking on the 10th on both sides to cease all forms of violence,” he added, according to AFP.
His comments come as activists said Syrian troops were attacking a suburb of the capital in what they described as one of the most violent campaigns since the year-old uprising began.
Annan’s office is in close contact with the Syrian opposition both inside and outside of the country, he said.
“We are receiving positive signals from the opposition that once the government abides by the 10th of April deadline, they too will lay down their arms,” he said.
But a halt in the violence is only the beginning of a process aimed at ultimately meeting the “legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people”, Fawzi said.
“The cessation of violence by all parties is not an end in itself. It will signal the beginning of a political process.
“In fact, Mr. Annan has already begun not only thinking about it, but working towards a formula that would be acceptable to all which I can’t go into now,” he said.
Annan will hold talks in Tehran on April 11 with senior Iranian officials on Syria, he said, referring to Syria’s major ally in the region.
He is due to brief the General Assembly later on Thursday, to apprise them of developments since he addressed the closed-door Security Council on Monday, Fawzi said.
Russia and China have been “extremely supportive” of Annan’s plan, he said.
Asked whether he expected them to back a Security Council resolution on the troop deployment, he said: “Whether the Russians and Chinese will be on board, so far they have been on board, as you know, they have been extremely supportive of the Annan six-point plan.”
France not optimistic
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Thursday he was not optimistic that a plan by international peace mediator Kofi Annan for ending fighting in Syria would succeed, and accused President Bashar al-Assad of merely pretending to be committed to it.
“Can we be optimistic or not? I am not, because I think Bashar al-Assad is tricking us,” Juppe told journalists. “He is pretending to accept Kofi Annan’s 6-point plan while at the same time is still using force.”
France, the first Western nation to recognize the Libyan opposition early in 2011, has led calls for Assad to step aside and championed opposition protests in Syria, where at least 10,000 people have died.
Juppe said it was vital for the agreed military withdrawal and comprehensive ceasefire to take place within the agreed 48 hour deadline after April 10.
“If this calendar is respected, an observer mission will then be deployed quickly to ensure that we are not being tricked,” Juppe told reporters. “If we get 250 U.N. observers, the free access of international media and humanitarian aid, then things will change profoundly.”
However, Juppe said that if Assad did not comply with the Annan plan then the international community could not indefinitely allow massacres to continue.
“We would then have to go back to the U.N. Security Council and look at all options,” he said. “I am convinced the regime will not be able to hold out indefinitely. When you have massacred 10,000 of your citizens, hundreds of children, tortured men and women, then one day it catches up with you.”