Annan plan for Syria is 'on track', spokesman says

Annan plan for Syria is 'on track', spokesman says

GENEVA - Agence France-Presse
Annan plan for Syria is on track, spokesman says

AFP photo

UN mediator Kofi Annan's plan for Syria is "on track", though progress in implementing the ceasefire is slow, his spokesman said Friday.

"The Annan plan is on track and a crisis that has been going on for over a year is not going to be resolved in a day or a week," Ahmad Fawzi, the United Nations and Arab League envoy's spokesman, told journalists in Geneva.

"There are signs on the ground of movement, albeit slow and small," he added.

"Some heavy weapons have been withdrawn, some heavy weapons remain. Some violence has receded, some violence continues. And that is not satisfactory, I'm not saying it is." Fawzi said Annan would brief the UN Security Council on Tuesday by video teleconference from Geneva to give an update on progress implementing the plan.

Overall, Fawzi said, the plan and the UN military observers who are on the ground overseeing its implementation -- a team he reported had grown to about 50 by Friday, including civilian staff -- have had an impact.

But he decried continuing violence between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and opposition forces in a conflict that has killed more than 11,000 people since flaring in March 2011.

"This is a difficult and complex mediation effort. There are days when things are progressing in a satisfactory manner and there are days where we feel that it's a rough ride," he said.

"However having said that, even on the days that we feel there is satisfactory progress... we are horrified by the extent of the violence that we see on the ground." Fawzi said the mediation team has at times facilitated meetings of opposition leaders to try to get the fragmented anti-regime movement to coordinate its actions.

But ultimately "the political process should be a Syrian-owned, Syrian-led process," he said.

He also said the Syrian government told monitors it had given visas to 98 media organisations to send correspondents to Syria, but added that the UN had no way of verifying the figure.

Allowing greater media freedom and access to journalists is part of Annan's six-point plan.

Fawzi also defended the Annan plan against those who have criticised its failure to stop ongoing violence, saying the mediation team's progress has not always been visible because peace negotiations are delicate and therefore secretive.  "I've read headlines like 'Has the Annan plan failed?'" he said.

"There are signs on the ground that you don't see, because... this mediation process is by definition conducted under the radar."