UN calls on Syrian government to honor cease-fire | News | DW | 10.04.2012
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UN calls on Syrian government to honor cease-fire

The UN has made an official statement urging the Syrian government to stick to a planned cease-fire agreement. Questions remain about whether the country's regime will take heed.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday urged the Syrian government to stick to a pledge to end fighting within 48 hours, and expressed its "concern" that the regime had failed to honor the first stage of a cease-fire.

Syriahad originally agreed to begin the cease-fire process by clearing soldiers from populated areas and desisting from deploying heavy weapons by early on Tuesday.

The UN called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to make a "fundamental change of course."

In this image made from amateur video released by the Syrian Media Council and accessed Tuesday, April 10, 2012, smoke rises following purported shelling in Homs, Syria. Syrian troops shelled and raided opposition strongholds across Syria on Tuesday, activists said, denying claims by the foreign minister that regime forces have begun pulling out of some areas in compliance with a U.N.-brokered truce. (Foto:Syrian Media Council via AP video/AP/dapd) TV OUT, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CANNOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT, DATE, LOCATION OR AUTHENTICITY OF THIS MATERIAL

The plan stipulates that heavy weapons should be withdrawn from near populated areas

"Members of the Security Council are unified in their concern that the [Tuesday] deadline has passed and the violence in the past 10 days has intensified," US Ambassador and Council President Susan Rice told reporters.

The Syrian government and its opponents have agreed to a full end to violence, which is due to come into force at 6 a.m. local time (0300 GMT) on Thursday.

Meanwhile, by international envoy to Syria Kofi Annan said in Istanbul that the full Thursday deadline was still possible. In a letter, he presented the UN Security Council with a six-point plan to bring the conflict to an end. It includes a cease-fire overseen by the UN, the release of opposition members, unrestricted access for humanitarian workers and a dialogue for transition to multi-party democracy.

Failure of stage one

The first stages of a plan to broker a cease-fire between forces of the Syrian government and opposition fighters, which was supposed to come into effect on Tuesday, appears far from being implemented. The Opposition Local Coordination Committees monitoring group said at least 26 people died in government attacks on Homs.

The cease-fire deadline was part of a peace plan that had been negotiated Annan and agreed to by the Syrian government and the Free Syrian Army. Under the deal, government forces were supposed to lay down their arms first.

Following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Damascus had already begun pulling its troops from several provinces.

However, at a press conference in Hatay, Turkey, on Tuesday, Annan said there was information to indicate Syrian forces had made "movements to other areas that were not previously military targets."

International consensus builds

Syria's apparent disregard for the cease-fire has drawn international criticism beyond the UN. British Foreign Secretary William Hague accused Assad's regime of using Tuesday's deadline "as a cover for intensified military efforts to crush Syria's opposition."

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Sending help to Syria

A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry said Syria's claims of troop withdrawals on Tuesday were "a new expression of this flagrant and unacceptable lie."

Russiahas demanded that Syria live up to its promise to fulfil the terms of the plan laid out by Annan. Speaking after his meeting with Muallem, Lavrov urged global powers to pressure the rebels to renounce violence as well.

"It is clear that success is possible only if other members of the international community that have influence on the [warring] Syrian sides, will also work towards a cease-fire in the country with a similar responsible attitude," he said.

'Too early' to call it failure

Despite international doubts over the likelihood of Thursday's ceasefire being implemented, Annan said that his peace roadmap remains "very much alive," partly because there is no other viable alternative.

"If you want to take (the plan) off the table, what will you replace it with?" he said.

mz/sej (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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