Annan calls for immediate Syria ceasefire
31, Mar, AFP
International envoy Kofi Annan urged Syria's Bashar al-Assad to
immediately implement a ceasefire as fighting raged even after the
embattled president said he had accepted the peace plan.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Syria on Friday
to protest against what they regard as the inaction of Arab governments
in the face of a crackdown that the UN says has cost more than 9,000
lives since March 2011.
Peacebroker Annan's ceasefire appeal came as monitors said shells
rained down Friday on Homs, a main rebel bastion which has been the
focus of much of Assad's year-long crackdown on anti-regime protests."We
expect him to implement this plan immediately," Annan's spokesman
said.The United Nations is making plans for a Syria ceasefire observer
mission if hostilities are halted, but the Damascus government has not
even approved sending officials for talks, UN officials said.
The preliminary planning for the force is part of contacts between
UN-Arab League envoy Annan and President Bashar al-Assad's government.
A UN official in New York said a minimum of 250 observers would be
needed if the Syrian government halted its offensive on protesters and
gave its agreement for the international force.
The peace plan calls for a commitment to stop all armed violence, a
daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire, media access to all areas
affected by the fighting, an inclusive Syrian-led political process, a
right to demonstrate, and release of arbitrarily detained people."I
can't tell you what the next steps will be if they don't stop now," the
Annan spokesman said, adding however that the former UN chief was due to
brief the UN Security Council on Monday and "we will take it from
Annan is also working to convince the Syrian opposition to "lay down
their arms and start talking," he said. State-run news agency SANA said
on Thursday that "President Assad... has informed Annan that Syria
approves the plan (the envoy) submitted but had made remarks about it."
Assad would "spare no effort" for the success of Annan's six-point plan
but said the proposal would only work if "terrorist acts" by foreign
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least
39 people 32 of them civilians were killed in violence on Friday.
Protesters took to the streets despite a fierce assault by security
forces on the town of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province in the
Shelling and gunfire killed five civilians, including a 12-year-old
child and a woman, in the city of Homs, while two others were killed in
the province of the same name, said the Observatory.
In the heaviest bloodshed elsewhere, seven civilians were killed in
clashes in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor between police and
demonstrators, while security forces shot dead five people in Daraa
province of southern Syria.
Internet-based activist group The Syrian Revolution 2011, one of the
main motors of the uprising, had called for people to take to the
streets after the main weekly Muslim prayers.
"The Muslims and the Arabs have abandoned us... but God is with us,"
the group said on its Facebook page.An Arab summit in Baghdad on
Thursday, largely ignored by Sunni Arab states, approved a resolution
calling for an end to the Syrian regime's crackdown on dissent, for the
opposition to unite and for parties to the conflict to launch a "serious
national dialogue." The opposition had urged a harsher statement backing
hardliners Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which have called for Assad to step
down and for rebels opposing his regime to be armed.But Iraqi Prime
Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that giving weapons to either side would
"lead to a regional and international proxy war in Syria."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in talks with Saudi King
Abdullah and other officials in Riyadh Friday, discussed international
efforts to send more humanitarian aid into Syria, and support opposition
efforts to present a united and inclusive political vision for the
future.They also discussed tightening the array of US, European,
Canadian, Arab and Turkish sanctions on Syria, a US State Department
In Washington, the Treasury Department announced it was targeting
Defence Minister Dawoud Rajiha as well as the army's deputy chief of
staff and the head of presidential security, in its latest round of
sanctions against Damascus.Clinton is due to attend a meeting of the
"Friends of Syria" group in Istanbul on Sunday.Canada on Friday also
tightened sanctions on Syria, targeting Assad's wife, mother, sister and
sister-in-law, a week after the European Union made a similar move.