U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan told U.N. member states Thursday that April 12 remains a firm deadline for an end to violence in Syria. But he added that although the Syrian government has committed to halting its military action against rebels and in civilian populated areas, an “alarming” number of casualties and abuses continue.
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Annan told an informal meeting of the U.N. General Assembly that the Syrian government had accepted his six-point peace plan, which requires, first and foremost, a cessation of violence. He admitted to being “impatient” for actions on commitments made.
“All points of the plan are crucial. But one is most urgent -- the need for cessation of violence," he said. "Clearly the violence is still continuing, alarming levels of casualties and other abuses continue to be reported daily. Military operations in civilian population centers have not stopped.”
Annan, who talked via a video link from Geneva, said the Syrian government has informed him its troops have partially withdrawn from the flashpoint towns of Idlib, Zabadani and Daraa.
But the envoy said far more reaching action is urgently required.
The government has agreed to stop all military action by April 10. Within 48 hours after the government fulfills that promise, the opposition is supposed to lay down its arms. Annan called on all parties to cease all forms of violence by 6 a.m. Damascus time on Thursday, April 12.
“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,” said Annan.
Earlier Thursday, the U.N. Security Council adopted what is known as a Presidential Statement. In it, the council threw its support behind the April 10 deadline for a Syrian troop withdrawal followed by the opposition’s cessation of hostilities.
Summary of comments on Syria by world leaders
||French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe: "I think Bashar al-Assad is cheating us. He is pretending to accept Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan but at the same time he continues to use force."
||Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan: "In not taking a decision, the U.N. Security Council has indirectly supported the oppression. To stand by with your hands and arms tied while the Syrian people are dying every day is to support the oppression."
||U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "We have to conclude that the regime is adding to its long list of broken promises...And we cannot sit back and wait any longer."
||U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "Despite the Syrian government's acceptance of the joint special envoy's (Kofi Annan's) plan of initial proposals to resolve the crisis, the violence and assaults in civilian areas have not stopped."
That cease-fire is to be monitored by a small force of unarmed U.N. observers. The Security Council said it would be willing to consider and authorize such a mission should circumstances permit.
Annan confirmed that a small technical team from the peacekeeping department has arrived in Damascus to discuss preparations.
“What we would need on the ground is a small, nimble United Nations presence," he said. "It would need to be deployed quickly with a broad and flexible mandate.”
Diplomats have said it would comprise 200 to 250 monitors, perhaps pulled from nearby U.N. peacekeeping missions in Lebanon and the Golan Heights.
Annan cautioned that a halt to the violence is only a beginning, and must be quickly followed by a political dialogue that is comprehensive and inclusive.