U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the crisis in Syria is getting worse and claiming more lives. Meanwhile, U.N. envoys Kofi Annan pointed to “alarming” casualties there despite the government’s pledge to withdraw troops from cities ahead of the U.N. April 10 deadline.
The U.N. chief appealed to President Bashar al-Assad “to show vision and leadership” and keep his pledge to pull troops and heavy weapons out of cities and towns by April 10, and he urged the opposition to be ready to stop all violence if the Syrian government meets the deadline.
“Cities, towns and villages have been turned into war zones. The sources of violence are proliferating,” Ban told the U.N. General Assembly. “The human rights of the Syrian people continue to be violated. ... Humanitarian needs are growing dramatically.”
His comments came as activists reported that Syrian troops attacked the Damascus suburb of Douma, an assault they said shows that Assad is intensifying violence in the days before the April 10 deadline. His crackdown on the yearlong uprising has left at least 9,000 people dead, according to the U.N.
The Syrian government has agreed to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from cities by April 10.
Four days before the deadline, Syrian forces, determined to crash the opposition, have continued to deploy in cities nationwide.
“Clearly the violence is still continuing. Alarming levels of casualties and other abuses continue to be reported daily,” U.N envoy Kofi Annan said.
“We must silence the tanks, helicopters, mortars, guns and stop all other forms of violence too: sexual abuse, torture, executions, abductions, destruction of homes, forced displacement and other abuses including on children.”
Annan and Ban spoke to the General Assembly minutes after the U.N. Security Council called on Syria to “urgently and visibly” fulfill its pledge to halt the use of troops and weapons by April 10. It called on the government and opposition to stop all violence within 48 hours if Syria meets the pullout deadline.
The presidential statement raised the possibility of “further steps” if Syria doesn’t implement the six-point peace plan outlined by Annan, which Assad agreed to on March 25.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said he was not optimistic about a peace plan for Syria and is ready to push for stronger U.N. action if the deadline is not met. Assad “is deceiving us” when he promises to abide by the peace plan, Juppe said.
“If we manage to get 200 observers (and the other measures in the peace plan) in place, things will change dramatically,” he told reporters in Paris. “If we don’t manage to get this by April 12, we have to go back to the U.N. Security Council.”
Syria’s key ally Russia, has grown increasingly impatient with Assad, criticizing him for being slow at reforms and urging him to take the first step in implementing Annan’s plan.
But Russia has vowed to block any U.N. resolution that could pave the way for a replay of what happened in Libya, where NATO action helped oust longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.