Annan: ‘Not Too Late for Syria Cease-Fire’

Posted April 10th, 2012 at 5:05 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.N. and Arab League envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, has urged the Syrian government to use the next 48 hours to fulfill its obligations under his six-point peace plan, so that there could still be an end to hostilities by an April 12 deadline.

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council Tuesday, Mr. Annan disputed Damascus' assertion that it is withdrawing its military from several cities. He urged the opposition to keep its commitment to stop fighting and appealed to countries with influence on Syria to help stop the conflict.

On Tuesday, members of the Security Council expressed deep concern about the level of commitment to a cease-fire the Syrian government has demonstrated so far.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who holds the council presidency this month, said that if “Syria fails to fulfill its obligations, then the international community and the Security Council will have to decide whether to remain unified and take the next step.” She said that would be to increase pressure on the Assad regime through collective action.

The United States and its western partners at the Security Council have pressed for sanctions or stronger action against Syria for months, but have been hindered by Russia and China, which oppose what they say would be outside interference in Syria.

Meanwhile, hopes for the peace plan dimmed further Tuesday after Syrian troops launched fresh attacks on rebellious areas.

Syrian rights groups said at least 31 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the government shelling — mainly in the central Hama region and the northwestern town of Mareh.

Syrian opposition activists in Geneva said Tuesday at least 1,000 people have been killed by government forces in the last eight days.

During a news conference from Geneva, spokeswoman Basma Kodmani of the opposition Syrian National Council said there were no indications that President Assad was honoring terms of the cease-fire, and that the opposition group could not accept a partial withdrawal of government forces.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, accused Syrian government forces of violating the border and said his country is considering what steps to take in response, including measures “we do not want to think about.” He did not elaborate.

In Moscow, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said his government had begun to fulfill Mr. Annan's plan to end the violence. But he seemed to raise another new demand, saying a cease-fire must start simultaneously with the deployment of an international observer mission.

U.N. officials say more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began 13 months ago.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday the U.S. had seen no evidence of a government pull-back in Syria, adding the international community would judge President Assad's government on its actions, not words.

The official Iranian IRNA news agency reported Tuesday that Mr. Annan, who earlier in the day visited Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, arrived in Tehran for talks with Iranian officials over the unrest in Syria.