Shaky Syria Cease-Fire Seems to be Holding

Posted April 12th, 2012 at 7:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Western nations have proposed a United Nations Security Council resolution on a deployment of an observer mission to Syria to monitor compliance with a shaky U.N.-backed cease-fire that went into effect early Thursday.

Under the resolution, Damascus would have to ensure full and unimpeded freedom of movement across Syria for all mission personnel. The draft includes other demands on the Syrian government, which it says must fully comply with U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan — including halting the use of heavy weapons and withdrawing troops and heavy weapons from population centers to their barracks.

Earlier Thursday, Annan told the council he is “encouraged” by reports that the fragile cease-fire between government troops and rebels in Syria seems to be holding, despite scattered violence. But according to diplomats, Annan also told the council that Syria had not fully complied with the terms of the peace plan that he brokered in March.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow is encouraged by the truce, but that all parties need to show “maximum prudence” for it to hold, while his Chinese counterpart, Li Baodong, called on all parties to fulfill their international commitments.

Syrian envoy Bashar Ja'afari defended President Bashar al-Assad's regime, saying the government had ended attacks and expects opposition militias to do the same. Ja'afari blamed anti-government forces for several violent acts that he said occurred after the cease-fire deadline and said “the moment of truth has come.”

Rights activists said Syrian forces killed at least three civilians after the cease-fire deadline passed. They said the attacks took place in areas including the protest hubs of Homs and Hama and that the Syrian troops remain deployed in those areas and are on high alert.

U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a joint statement urging Syria to abide by Mr. Annan's plan.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that although Syrian troops have appeared to stop widespread attacks on the opposition, incidents of violence were reported, and Damascus rebuffed demands to return troops to their barracks. Carney said this was “unacceptable,” adding that the message to the Assad government is to stop the violence and stop killing its people.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cannot “pick and choose” which parts of the agreements he wants to accept. She said Washington supports sending a U.N. monitoring mission to Syria.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said the international community must be united if it is going to keep Syria from descending into “chaos.” Mr. Ban said plans were under way to send observers to Syria. Diplomats said the first U.N. peacekeepers could be dispatched as early as Friday.