An advance peacekeeping team for U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Syria to begin laying the groundwork for a potential monitoring mission that could end the government's violent crackdown on dissent.
Reuters news says the team arrived in Damascus on Thursday, just hours after a spokesman for Annan said Syria had begun withdrawing troops from three areas as part of a cease-fire plan.
Spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told reporters that negotiators expected a "complete cessation of violence" by an April 10 deadline that Syria agreed to meet.
In spite of continued reports of government shelling, he said Syria had committed to upholding the provisions in Annan's six-point peace plan.
"We have no doubts that we have this commitment," said Fawzi. "They have agreed to the six-point plan. They have agreed to the 10th of April deadline."
Meanwhile, rights activists reported shelling and heavy gunfire Thursday in the Damascus suburb of Douma and additional fighting in northern Aleppo province near the Turkish border.
Turkey's disaster management agency said Thursday more than 1,600 Syrians fled into Turkey in the past two days.
U.N. Security Council members are weighing a presidential statement that "expresses its grave concern" that Syria has not yet implemented the cease-fire deal.
In a draft obtained by VOA, the Security Council also demands that President Bashar al-Assad's government "immediately and verifiably" stop the use of heavy weapons and pull military forces back from population centers.
Watch related video of violence, government troops
U.N. diplomats say the statement could be adopted Thursday. Annan is scheduled to brief the U.N. General Assembly Thursday on the status of his mediation efforts, and his spokesman said he will travel to Syrian ally Iran for talks on April 11.
The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against Assad began a year ago.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.