Annan: Syria Promises to Respect Cease-Fire

Posted April 11th, 2012 at 3:35 am (UTC-5)
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International envoy Kofi Annan says the Syrian government has assured him it will respect a cease-fire with rebel forces less than 24 hours before a deadline to suspend hostilities.

Mr. Annan said he has approached “governments with influence” to ensure all parties respect the cease-fire deadline, set for Thursday at 6 am Syrian time.

He spoke to reporters Wednesday after talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in Tehran, where he appealed to Syria's key ally to help end the violence wracking the Arab country. Mr. Annan said Salehi endorsed his six-point peace plan and agreed there could be “unimaginable consequences if any missteps occur in Syria due to its geographical location” in the middle of the Arab world.

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council Tuesday, Mr. Annan had 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.

Members of the Security Council also expressed deep concern about the level of commitment to a cease-fire the Syrian government has demonstrated.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said 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 government through collective action.

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.

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. 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 SNC 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.