Last Updated: Fri Apr 13, 2012 01:02 am (KSA) 22:02 pm (GMT)

After fragile ceasefire, U.N. draft calls for up to 30 unarmed Syria observers

A Syrian tank takes position as seen from the Wadi Khalid area near the Syrian-Lebanese border despite a U.N.backed plan for the Syrian regime to withdraw its troops across the country. (Reuters)
A Syrian tank takes position as seen from the Wadi Khalid area near the Syrian-Lebanese border despite a U.N.backed plan for the Syrian regime to withdraw its troops across the country. (Reuters)

A U.S.-drafted resolution would have the U.N. Security Council authorize an initial deployment to Syria of up to 30 unarmed observers to monitor compliance with a fragile U.N.-backed ceasefire that took hold earlier on Thursday.

The draft, obtained by Reuters, would have the 15-nation council say it “demands the Syrian government implement visibly its commitments in their entirety ... to (a) cease troop movements towards population centers, (b) cease all use of heavy weapons in such centers, and (c) begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres.”

It also “demands further that the Syrian government withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centers to their barracks ... calls upon all parties in Syria immediately to cease all armed violence in all its forms and to cease all arbitrary detentions, abductions, and torture.”

Annan says Syria has not complied with plan

United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan told the Security Council on Thursday that Syria has not fully complied with the terms of his peace plan and urged the 15-nation body to demand the withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from towns, council diplomats said.

At least 37 people have been killed by army gunfire across Syria on Thursday, Local Coordinating Committees reported, despite a military ceasefire agreement which went into effect on Thursday.

Annan also told council members that Syria's fragile truce needs support and called for the swift deployment of a first wave of unarmed observers to monitor implementation of his six-point peace plan, to be followed by a second wave of observers later, diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

He also called on the U.N. Security Council to demand that Syrian troops are moved away from protest cities back to their barracks, U.N. envoys said.

Envoys at a closed Security Council meeting also quoted Annan as saying that while the Syrian government is technically not meeting commitments to the peace plan a current ceasefire was “a chance to be seized.”

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday the U.N.-backed peace plan had so far not been implemented.

“There is a six-point plan in the open presented by Annan. I do not think this six-point plan has been implemented. There is nothing like this out there,” Erdogan told a news conference in the Turkish capital.

Syrian rebels have said they are fully committed to the U.N.-backed ceasefire which came into effect on Thursday, its spokesman said, accusing the regime of provoking the rebels to draw them into violating the truce.

“The regime is being elusive. We are 100 percent committed to the ceasefire, but the regime is not abiding by it,” the spokesman of the Free Syrian Army, Colonel Kassem Saadeddine, told AFP.

“We shall not be provoked by the regime,” he added.

He echoed a call by the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) to dispatch international observers to Syria to monitor the implementation of the peace roadmap drawn by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

“The ball is now in the court of the international community, which should react, because the regime has not implemented. We demand international observers from all over the world to go immediately to Syria,” he said.

SNC chief Burhan Ghalioun told AFP earlier that “international observers should be on the ground as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, Saadeddine denied any involvement in an attack on a bus transporting troops on Thursday morning, which state media said killed one officer and wounded 24 other people. The authorities blamed “armed terrorist groups,” their standard term of abuse for rebel fighters.

“The Free Syrian Army has nothing to do with any attacks. What is reported by SANA (the official Syrian Arab News Agency) is propaganda. This act is a maneuver by the regime to avoid fulfilling its commitment and say that the Free Syrian Army violated the truce,” he said.

“Security forces and shabiha (militiamen) are behind these acts,” he added.

Earlier, Annan said on Thursday that a ceasefire in Syria appears to be holding but President Bashar al-Assad must carry out all parts of an agreed peace plan.

“Syria is apparently experiencing a rare moment of calm on the ground,” Annan said in a statement released as he briefed the UN Security Council on the 13-month-old crisis in which the UN says more than 9,000 people have been killed.

A ceasefire came into effect in Syria on Thursday and Annan said: “I am encouraged by reports that the situation in Syria is relatively calm and that the cessation of hostilities appears to be holding.”

Annan added, however, that the Syrian government must carry out of all the agreed peace plan which includes a withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from Syria’s cities.

“All parties have obligations to implement fully the six-point plan. This includes both the military provisions of the plan and the commitment to move to a political process,” he said.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday that plans were being made to send observers to Syria, starting with the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping general as early as Friday.

“We are working to send an observer team as promptly as possible,” Ban told a news conference in Geneva, saying Thursday marked a “critical moment” in the UN’s plan for ending the violence in Syria.

Ban said he had spoken with Annan who said he would dispatch Norwegian general Robert Mood and his team “as early as tomorrow (Friday) as a way of preparing this observer mission.”

Speaking about the ceasefire which came into force at 6:00 am Damascus time (0300 GMT), the U.N. secretary general said: “The situation looks calmer. We are following it closely.

“The world is watching however with skeptical eyes,” he added, since previous promises made by the Syrian regime “have not been kept.”

“Once again I call on the government of Syria to fully implement ... the six-point plan,” said Ban.

“I also call on the Syrian opposition to sustain the cessation of violence in all its forms,” he said. “This is a time for a fundamental change of course. It’s time to stop the killing.”

The rebel group’s comments came is on Syria’s government to keep to its promise to observe a ceasefire that took effect on Thursday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told a news conference in Geneva.

He said the situation in Syria looked calmer and he was working with the U.N. Security Council to send an observer team as quickly as possible. But he warned that the international community must remain unified to avoid Syria descending into chaos.

Russia to back new U.N. draft resolution

A draft resolution on the deployment of a U.N. observer mission in Syria will be submitted Thursday at the United Nations, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.

“We deeply support the plan to deploy an observer mission on the ground,” said Juppe, adding that France had worked with the United States and Britain on the text of the resolution.

Russia’s U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin told reporters that Russia, which has blocked two previous resolutions on Syria, would support the resolution and wanted to see observers in Syria as early as next week.

Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Barack Obama of the United States demanded Thursday that Syria respect the terms of a peace plan drawn up by a U.N. envoy and the Arab League.

The French presidency announced the joint call in a statement after the leaders held videophone talks on a series of world crises, and warned that Bashar al-Assad’s regime would be “judged on its actions.”

“The two presidents urged the Syrian regime to scrupulously and unconditionally respect its undertakings in regard to the plan by the United Nations special envoy and the Arab League,” the statement said.

“In liaison with their partners, notably their Arab partners, they agreed to intensify their efforts, including at the UN Security Council, to bring a definitive end to the brutal repression of the Syrian people,” it said.

The leaders vowed to find a way “for humanitarian aid to be delivered, and for the Syrian people to freely choose their destiny.” And they warned: “Those responsible for abuses will have to answer for their crimes.”

Also on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton said on Thursday that Group of Eight foreign ministers welcomed the report by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan 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.

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