UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council agreed today to a statement calling upon Syria to comply with an April 10 deadline to halt fighting and withdraw its forces from Syrian population centres, and threatened to consider “further steps” if it did not.
Western diplomats said there had been no objections to the statement, a watered-down version of an earlier draft, and it would be formally adopted by the 15-nation panel later on Thursday. This meant it appeared to have the support of China and Syrian ally Russia, they said.
UN Arab League envoy Kofi Annan told the council on Monday the Syrian government had accepted the deadline, and that he would push for an end of rebel operations within 48 hours after the government stops fighting. He asked for council support.
The Security Council statement asks Annan to update it on compliance with the timeline and warned that it “will consider further steps as appropriate.” Russia and China, however, have made clear they would oppose any attempts to put sanctions on Syria.
“The Security Council calls upon the Syrian government to implement urgently and visibly its commitments ... to a) ease troop movements toward population centres, b) cease all use of heavy weapons in such centres, and c) begin pull back of military concentrations in and around population centres and to fulfill these in their entirety by no later than 10 April, 2012,” it says in the statement, obtained by Reuters.
Syria has publicly accepted the deadline, but Western diplomats have expressed skepticism about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s intentions. They said it was doubtful he would fully comply with the deadline since he has broken previous promises to halt to military action against civilian protesters.
“The Security Council calls upon all parties, including the opposition, to cease armed violence in all its forms within 48 hours of the implementation in their entirety by the Syrian government of measures a, b, c,” the council said in the statement.
Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign minister urged Annan to also put pressure on the rebels after the UN Security Council called on the regime to keep a deadline on troop withdrawals.
The foreign ministry said Sergei Lavrov told Annan by telephone that Moscow backed the Security Council statement with the understanding that a second deadline for the armed opposition to lay down weapons would also be imposed.
“The minister stressed that not only the Syrian authorities, but also the opposition must take concrete steps” toward peace, it said in a statement.
If this is carried out Annan will then give the government and opposition groups 48 hours to end all hostilities.
Forces withdrawal on, Annan told
GENEVA: Syrian authorities told international mediator Kofi Annan they had started withdrawing troops from three areas as part of a peace plan to end more than a year of fighting with rebels, his spokesman said today.
The report was undermined by fresh clashes between government forces and insurgents in another area in a town near the capital Damascus.
Fighting shows no sign of abating even though Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed more than a week ago to a six-point peace plan drawn up by Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria. Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told a news briefing in Geneva. “They have specified three cities - Deraa, Idlib and Zabadani.”
Refugee influx alarms Turkey
ANTAKYA: More than 1,600 Syrians have fled to Turkey in the last two days, Turkish authorities said on Thursday, to escape Syrian army shelling of villages near the northern Syrian towns of Idlib and Aleppo. The numbers fleeing were the highest since March 15 when around 1,000 Syrians entered Turkey in one day. Since then, around 300 to 400 Syrians have fled each day. Turkish leaders have said a flood of refugees or massacres of civilians by Syrian troops near its border could force them to act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said last month thatsetting up a “safe” or “buffer” zone along the border was among the options his government was considering. But that would mean sending in troops to secure the area, which could lead to confrontation between Syrian forces and the Turkish army.