Some Syrian opposition leaders are calling for demonstrations to test the resolve of the government to abide by a United Nations-brokered cease-fire.
The challenge issued by the opposition Syrian National Council Thursday came just hours after an uneasy calm appeared to take hold across the country.
Council spokesman Fawaz Zakri was hopeful months of violence had finally come to an end but said it was time for protestors to again make their voices heard.
“If the Syrian regime indeed stop the killings and abides by the cease-fire then we think, we are sure, that the demonstrations will come back more powerful and it will cover all of Syria very nearly.”
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA there have no reports of violence since the 6 a.m. local time cease-fire deadline.
Still, despite the calm, many Syrian refugees are skeptical.
One unidentified refugee staying on the Turkish side of the border said nothing from President Bashar al-Assad's government could be trusted.
“We do not trust in the words of Bashar Assad because he is a liar. His government is lying. All the countries know this.”
Refugee Huseyin Kasif at the Yayladagi Refugee Camp in Turkey also dismissed Mr. Assad's intentions, accusing him of spewing “gibberish.”
“This cease-fire will not stay long. He has been promising this for a year. I do not think he will withdraw neither tanks nor troops. He is lying. Whenever he says he will end the massacre, he kills more.''
The deal set out by U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan aims to end 13 months of violence and bloodshed. Syria's government promised to comply with the truce. But it warned in a statement Wednesday its armed forces will remain on standby to retaliate against any attacks by armed terrorist groups against civilians or troops.
Opposition Syrian National Council member Bassam Imadi Thursday said he was not certain the cease-fire would hold. And he said, if it did, it could only be a first step.
“There should be some kind of dialogue. In our mind, the dialogue should be about the transition phase after Assad steps down. So this could be the second step.''
President Assad has refused to step down in the face of growing international pressure. In a statement Wednesday, Syria said the army had successfully fought off “armed terrorist groups” and has “reasserted the state's rule across the country.”
The deal also calls for opposition forces to stop fighting.
The Obama administration Wednesday called on Damascus to match its words with deeds.
At a meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed alarm at the ongoing violence in Syria, and concern about the problems facing special envoy Kofi Annan in his efforts to bring about a cease-fire and an end to the violence.
White House spokesman Jay Carney cautioned that President Bashar al-Assad's regime has reneged on promises to stop the violence in the past.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Syria's promise to halt hostilities by Thursday cannot be construed as complying with Annan's six-point peace plan. She said nothing casts more doubt on the credibility of the commitments than the fact that, in her words, “commitments have been made and made, and broken and broken and broken.”
The United States and its Western partners have pressed for stronger action against Syria for months but have been hindered by Russian and Chinese opposition to what those two nations call outside interference in Syria.
Russia said Wednesday that since the Syrian government had pledged to halt its offensive on Thursday, it is now the armed opposition's turn to do the same.
U.N. officials say more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began 13 months ago.
1. (English) Fawaz Zakri, Syrian National Council spokesman:
“Now until this moment the Syrian regime has abided by their cease-fire (which) started today at 6 a.m. local time (0300GMT) and there is no measure of violence reports until this moment. We hope that the Syrian regime will go on and comply with the Annan plan even though the regime didn't withdraw Syrian troops from cities and villages as it was planned two days ago.”
2. (English) Fawaz Zakri, Syrian National Council spokesman:
“The position that the Syrian regime wanted the demonstrations to stop and they tried this by killing people and by shooting on the demonstrations. Therefore, there were so many killings and massacres. But, if the Syrian regime indeed stop the killings and abides by the cease-fire then we think, we are sure, that the demonstrations will come back more powerful and it will cover all of Syria very nearly.”
1. (English) SYRIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL MEMBER, BASSAM IMADI SAYING:
“He gave too many promises before, so it is not easy to
believe him now. It is a matter of wait and see whether it
is going to happen and we will judge. It is premature now
to judge his intentions. But from what we have before from
our experience from this regime before, we don't think he
will abide by. He will find some tricks and maneuvers to
prove that he will not keep his promise. This is what we
2. (English) SYRIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL MEMBER, BASSAM IMADI SAYING:
“As soon as there is a real cease-fire, people will come
out to the streets, demonstrating and demanding his
removal, his stepping down. So I think the regime has to
retaliate by opening fire again, but let's hope for the
3. (English) SYRIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL MEMBER, BASSAM IMADI SAYING:
“If the cease-fire is established then according to the
plan, there should be some kind of dialogue. In our mind,
the dialogue should be about the transition phase after
Assad steps down. So this could be the second step.''
SOUNDBITE: (Arabic) UNIDENTIFIED SYRIAN REFUGEE, SAYING:
“We do not trust in the words of Bashar Assad because he is a liar. His government is lying. All the countries know this. His tanks are patrolling in Syrian cities and killing people. Even today he silenced them, he will keep on killing people with rifles, with snipers. We ask Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to establish a buffer zone and create a safe area for the soldiers of the Free Syrian Army.''
1. (Arabic) SYRIAN REFUGEE, HUSEYIN KASIF SAYING:
“Those words are all gibberish. This ceasefire will not
stay long. He has been promising this for a year. I do not
think he will withdraw neither tanks nor troops. He is
lying. Whenever he says he will end the massacre, he kills
2. (Arabic) UNIDENTIFIED SYRIAN REFUGEE, SAYING:
“He is lying. He will not stop fighting. Even if he
withdraws the troops, he will keep on. We are watching the
news, they say that he withdrew the troops and silenced the
guns, but he is lying.''
Reuters feed: (English) U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON SAYING:
“We are alarmed for the ongoing violence in Syria and we are concerned about the problems facing Special Envoy Kofi Annan as he attempts to bring about a cease-fire and the end to violence.''