Syrian truce marred with killings
Syrian refugee boys dressed as Free Syrian Army soldiers attend a demonstration against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, outside the Syrian embassy in Amman. REUTERS photoAt least five civilians were reportedly killed in clashes between police and protestors, as thousands of Syrians marched on the second day of the United Nations brokered cease-fire to test the regime’s commitment to a truce. International envoy Kofi Annan and France urged Syria to open humanitarian corridors to deliver aid to civilians.
“Annan is aware that we don’t have a perfect situation in the country at the moment,” his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said. “There are detainees that need to be released [and] humanitarian corridors need to be opened.”
Protesters rallied in the Qadam and Assali districts of Damascus, while other demonstrations took place in Irbin and Bibla outside the capital, according to videos posted on the Internet. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said demonstrations were organized in the northern province of Aleppo, while protesters took to the streets in several neighborhoods of Deir Ezzor in the east. Three demonstrators were killed in the town of Hama in Daraa province and in Idlib province, the group said.
The observatory said fighting erupted briefly in the northwestern province of Idlib, near the Syria-Turkey border, after troops went to clear rebels from the area. No casualties were reported.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh on April 13 for talks on the Syrian conflict.
The Security Council was set to vote on a resolution to send an advance team of 10 to 12 observers to Syria in the next few days to monitor a cease-fire that has been “relatively respected,” a spokesman for Annan said April 13.
France also called for the creation of aid corridors to help Syrians escape “massacres.” “I firmly believe the international community should live up to its responsibilities and create the conditions for humanitarian corridors so that these poor people who are being massacred can escape a dictator,” President Nicolas Sarkozy told a TV news channel on April 13. Sarkozy expressed doubt about al-Assad’s commitment to the truce. “I do not believe Bashar al-Assad is sincere. Sadly I do not believe this cease-fire,” he said.
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said the zone could be protected by armed “observers,” but ruled out direct military intervention. Juppe’s spokesman Bernard Valero said there was no specific plan, but that with a cease-fire in place setting up corridors could be easier, unlike previous efforts which failed after Syria, Russia and China opposed them.
“There is a humanitarian urgency,” Valero said. “We’re in a different situation now than when al-Assad’s helicopters and tanks were firing on everything that moved. The ceasefire opens up new opportunities for humanitarian aid.”
Speaking for the G-8 after its foreign ministers met for two days in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said while the Syrian truce appeared to be holding “at least for the moment,” al-Assad’s regime was not complying with other parts of Annan’s initiative.
“If it holds, a cease-fire is an important step, but it represents just one element of the special envoy’s plan,” Clinton told reporters at the State Department, noting that the al-Assad government still has not withdrawn troops from cities and accepted a political transition.
Meanwhile, a Russian news agency reported on April 13 that Moscow had decided to keep a warship on patrol off Syria for the foreseeable future, but a military source said Russia’s naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean had “nothing to do” with Syria.
The destroyer Smetlivy is plying waters off Syria now and will be replaced by another Russian warship next month, state-run RIA news agency reported, citing an unidentified Defense Ministry source. “A decision has been made to have Russian navy ships close to Syria’s shores on a permanent basis,” it quoted the source as saying.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.