U.N.-Arab League Syria Envoy Kofi Annan told the U.N. Security Council Monday that the Syrian government has agreed to begin withdrawing its troops from towns and cities and will complete its military pullback by April 10.
Kofi Annan briefed the 15-nation Security Council via a video link from Geneva during a closed meeting. Afterwards, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who holds the council’s rotating presidency this month, told reporters that Annan reported on the Syrian pledge to implement the cessation of hostilities.
“Mr. Annan reported that the Syrian foreign minister sent him a letter yesterday in which he said the Syrian military will begin immediately -- and by April 10 will complete -- the cessation of all forward deployment and use of heavy weapons and will complete its withdrawal from population centers," said Rice.
Rice added that the opposition fighters would then be expected to stop fighting within 48 hours of the April 10 deadline. She said Annan told the council that he wished the deadline would have been sooner than April 10, but he urged the Syrian government to start immediately and ensure that its forces move no further into population centers.
The U.S. ambassador said Annan is expecting further details from the Syrian government on other aspects of his six point plan, including on humanitarian access, access for the media and the political process.
Asked whether the Syrians had requested any pre-conditions to begin this military pull back, Rice said no conditions were conveyed to the council. But the envoy did express her own government’s skepticism as to whether President Bashar al-Assad’s government would follow through on its commitments.
“We have seen over the course of the last many months promises made and promises broken; we have seen commitments to end the violence followed by massive intensification of violence. So the U.S., for one, would look at these commitments and say yet again the proof is in the actions, not in the words,” said Rice.
Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari told reporters his government is committed to the success of Mr. Annan’s mission and that he hoped the other parties would cooperate.
“A plan would not be successful unless everybody is committed to [it]. So far the Syria government said that it is committed," said Ja’afari. "We are expecting Mr. Kofi Annan to get in touch with other parties, those who are involved in initiating, sponsoring and arming the armed groups also, in order to make the stopping of the violence relevant to all parties.”
The Syrian ambassador had harsh words for Sunday’s meeting in Istanbul of the so-called Friends of Syria - a gathering of international delegates supporting Syria's opposition.
The Syrian envoy called the meeting the ‘Enemies of the Syria’ and said it is a parallel track, initiated by enemies of his government, which is competing with and possibly undermining Annan’s mediation efforts.
He condemned Arab countries which pledged tens of millions of dollars to pay opposition fighters and the U.S. offer to send communications equipment as ‘an act of war’ against Syria’s sovereignty. He also chastised former ally Turkey for hosting the meeting.
Last week the United Nations said the crackdown to quell political dissent in Syria has killed more than 9,000 people during the past year.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.