Syria not keeping peace plan, observers recommended

UNITED NATIONS: International envoy Kofi Annan said Thursday that Syria has not kept to his peace plan, but still asked that UN observers be sent within days to monitor a fragile ceasefire.


The UN Security Council could pass a resolution on Friday allowing an advanced mission of observers to be sent to the country brought to its knees by 13 months of conflict which the UN says has left more than 9,000 dead.


Annan told the Security Council there was a fragile calm in Syria after a ceasefire started earlier in the day, US ambassador Susan Rice told reporters following a closed briefing by the UN-Arab League envoy.


But Annan stressed that President Bashar al-Assad is still not complying with his six-point peace plan, added Rice, who gave details as the Security Council president for April.


Syria in particular must pull troops and heavy weapons out of cities, the envoy said.


“What has happened today does not constitute full compliance by the Syrian government,” Annan was quoted as telling the 15 council envoys. “Syrian troops and armour must return to their barracks immediately.”


Rice said the Syrian leader has a dismal record of keeping promises made over the past year, but that urgent talks on a resolution allowing the observer mission had started.


France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the United States, Britain and France had been working on a draft text which would be discussed Thursday.


Between 20 and 30 observers could be in place next week, but the full mission would be at least 200 monitors.


Annan told the council that the full mission would only go if violence does not resume in coming days.


He has insisted that the mission must have guaranteed free access across the country and security assurances from the Syrian government and opposition.


Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said the resolution could be passed on Friday and that the observer mission would be backed by his country, which has blocked two previous resolutions on Syria.


Syria’s UN ambassador Bashar Jaafari said his government supported the observer force.


The United States and European powers on the Security Council have expressed strong doubts that the Syrian government will stick to the Annan plan and called for measures against Assad if the ceasefire fails.


“The world is watching however with skeptical eyes,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said of the ceasefire. Previous promises by the Syrian regime have not been kept, the UN leader said in Geneva.


In a statement before briefing the council, Annan said that Syria was apparently experiencing a rare moment of calm on the ground.


“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 said.


He said an observer mission would “allow us to move quickly to launch a serious dialogue that will address the concerns and aspirations of the Syrian people.”


Annan said the halt to hostilities was bringing much-needed relief and hope to the Syrian people who have suffered so much for so long in this brutal conflict. “This must now be sustained.”


“This is the time for all Syrians to come together in the hope that they can begin to heal their wounds and initiate a political transition to a democratic, plural political system, in which citizens have equal rights and equal opportunities, regardless of their affiliations or ethnicities or beliefs.”


Annan told the council there were now 43,610 Syrian refugees registered in countries around Syria and many more still not registered.



About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.