UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has told the Security Council that he's "encouraged" by the reports of relative calm in Syria since a cease-fire came into effect Thursday morning, but said there was much work ahead.
Special envoy Kofi Annan briefed the UN Security Council on Thursday after the first few hours of a fragile cease-fire deal implemented in Syria. The mediator for the UN and Arab League said the truce appeared to be holding, though diplomats also said that he cautioned that the Syrian military had not yet withdrawn from all built-up areas.
"I am encouraged by reports that the situation in Syria is relatively calm and that the cessation of hostilities appears to be holding," Annan said in a statement released during his briefing with the Security Council.
"All parties have obligations to implement fully the six-point plan. This includes both the military provisions of the plan and the commitment to move to a political process," he also said, in an apparent reference to military presence in major settlements.
One diplomat later told Reuters that Annan said in his Security Council briefing that the Syrian military was still present in some towns.
Observers the next step
Annan's successor as UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said on Thursday that one of the UN's next priorities is to dispatch a team of observers to Syria to monitor the cease-fire, saying that a UN peacekeeping general might be dispatched in advance as early as Friday.
"We are working to send an observer team as promptly as possible," Ban told a news conference in Geneva, saying the Syrian conflict had reached a "critical moment" with Thursday's cease-fire. The UN's top diplomat also conceded that the world "is watching, however, with skeptical eyes," given previous promises from the government in Damascus that "have not been kept."
The main demands of Annan's six-point plan are a cessation of violence from the government and the rebels, a withdrawal of heavy weaponry and soldiers from built-up areas and the initiation of a political dialog.
There were claims of continued, albeit far less widespread, violence from both sides on the ground in Syria as the tentative truce took hold.
The opposition Syrian National Council said that fighting continued in the flashpoint region of Hama, reporting three deaths and dozens of arrests.
State TV channel SANA, meanwhile, reported that an "armed terrorist group used an explosive device to target a bus transporting officers and non-commissioned officers to their unit in Aleppo. It killed a lieutenant colonel." The report also spoke of 24 wounded in the attack.
Back in Geneva, Ban Ki-moon urged restraint from both sides.
"This cease-fire process is very fragile. It may be broken at any time," he said. "If and when there is another gunshot, even a small gunshot may give both sides the pretext to engage in another fighting. This is very worrisome."
msh/sej (AFP, AP, Reuters)