Planned protests could give Syria cease-fire first major test | News | DW | 13.04.2012
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Planned protests could give Syria cease-fire first major test

Syria's fragile cease-fire was still largely holding more than a day after it came into force. Planned opposition protests were set to provide it with its first major test.

Syria braced for the first major test of the country's fragile cease-fire on Friday, after opposition groups called for major anti-government protests.

"We call on the people to demonstrate and express themselves…. The right to demonstrate is a principle point of the plan," Burhan Ghalioun, the head of the Syrian National Council, an opposition group in exile, told the AFP news agency.

Another activist group, the Syrian Revolution 2011 used the social media website Facebook to call for protests.

More than 24 hours after the cease-fire came into effect, it was still largely holding, but clashes were reported on Syria's border with Turkey on Friday.

"Fighting with heavy machine guns took place in Khirbet al-Joz, located on the Turkish border, between regime soldiers and (army) deserters," Rami Abdel Rahman of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.

The Local Coordination committees also reported heavy gunfire in the border village.

The Observatory had also reported isolated violations of the cease-fire on Thursday, which left at least eight people dead. These reports were impossible to verify due to severe restrictions on journalists in the country.

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World demands proof of Syria cease-fire

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the cease-fire as being "very fragile."

"The onus is on the government of Syria to prove their words will be matched by deeds," Ban told reporters in Geneva on Thursday.

Skepticism from West

While the fighting has died down since the cease-fire came into force, critics noted that the Syrian government had not ordered its troops back to their barracks as agreed under the plan. This may be part of the reason there is widespread skepticism about the cease-fire. Following a meeting of G-8 foreign ministers in Washington, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to implement this and all other measures it committed itself to when it agreed to the cease-fire plan.

"The burden of fully and visibly meeting all of these obligations continues to rest with the regime. They cannot pick and choose. For it to be meaningful, this apparent halt in violence must lead to a credible political process and a peaceful, inclusive democratic transition."

The UN Security Council, meanwhile, appeared set to approve a plan to send an advance mission of a couple of dozen observers to Syria. Diplomats said the Security Council could vote on a resolution to approve the mission as soon as this Friday.

Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League peace envoy who brokered the cease-fire, used a briefing to the Security Council on Thursday to call on its members to swiftly approve the mission. Damascus has agreed to accept the unarmed monitors.

pfd/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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