New deadline for Syrian ceasefire: 6 am, April 12
GENEVA / DAMASCUS
Free Syrian Army fighters guard a night protest in a neighborhood in Damascus on April 4. Syrian troops launched a fierce assault on a Damascus suburb. AP photoThe United Nations Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said yesterday the Syrian army and opposition fighters in a year-long conflict that has killed thousands must end all violence by 6 a.m. Syrian time April 12 if the government meets its agreed deadline to halt fighting two days earlier.
“I urge the government and the opposition commanders to issue clear instructions so that the message reaches across the country, down to the fighter and soldier at the local level,” Annan told the U.N. General Assembly in a videoconference briefing from Geneva yesterday. Annan said violence is clearly continuing in Syria, with “alarming levels” of casualties being reported daily.
Kofi Annan’s peace plan had previously set an April 10 deadline for Syrian troops to pull out of towns and cities, to be followed by a withdrawal of rebel fighters.
Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said yesterday that Annan will hold talks on Syria with senior Iranian officials in Tehran on April 11, and was due to brief the U.N. General Assembly late yesterday.
UN members being asked to supply troops: Annan
Fawzi also said that countries were currently being asked to supply troops for the proposed U.N. monitoring mission to Syria. Syria has told U.N. officials that it is withdrawing troops from the southern province of Daraa, the northwestern province of Idlib, and the rebel-controlled mountain resort town of Zabadani north of Damascus. Annan’s team is trying to verify this, said Fawzi.
However, activists in Syria said regime troops were attacking the Damascus suburb of Douma, in what they described as one of the most violent campaigns there since the year-old uprising began. Also, Western leaders have voiced deep skepticism about Assad’s good faith.
“The Syrian authorities have said they will [cease violence] by April 10,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on April 4. “There is no sign of them doing it so far.”
The French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe also said he was not optimistic about a peace plan for Syria. Juppe, speaking to reporters yesterday, said he thought al-Assad was “deceiving us” when promising to abide by the peace plan. “Can we be optimistic? I am not.” If all the conditions of the cease-fire plan are not met, including the arrival of 200 observers, by April 12, “we must go back to the U.N. Security Council,” he said.
Russia, meanwhile, said it could support a U.N. Security Council motion backing Annan’s peace plan if it didn’t contain ultimatums for the al-Assad regime. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov didn’t specify whether he was referring to a council resolution or a statement, but warned that the document should not contain any ultimatums or threats.
Advance team arrives in Damascus
Meanwhile, an advance team sent by Annan arrived in Damascus yesterday to begin discussing their full deployment, which requires a U.N. Security Council resolution. “The planning team is all in Damascus now. There are about 10 or 11 of them,” Fawzi said. “We are receiving positive signals from the opposition that once the government abides by the April 10 deadline, they too will lay down their arms,” he said. Meanwhile, on his visit to Syria, the former Norwegian Chief of Staff Major-General Robert Mood, 54, was to examine prospects for U.N. observers to assess whether troops and insurgents respect the truce.
Compiled from Reuters and AP stories by the Daily News staff.