UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan told the Security Council on Monday that Syria
has accepted an April 10 deadline for ending military operations, envoys said,
with the opposition under pressure to cease fighting within 48 hours of that
“The Syrians have told us they have put a plan in place for
withdrawing their army units from populated zones and surrounding areas,” Annan
spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said after the former UN chief briefed the Security
“This plan began yesterday [Sunday], the day we got the letter,
and will be completed by April 10.”
Western diplomats, however, expressed
skepticism about the credibility of the Syrian regime, which has repeatedly
promised to end attacks but has pressed ahead with a year-long assault on
insurgents that has brought the country to the brink of civil war. After their
meeting in Istanbul on Sunday, the “Friends of Syria” diplomatic summit said
Syrian President Bashar Assad did not have an open-ended opportunity to meet his
commitments to Annan.
On Monday Syria’s state-run SANA news agency quoted
a group calling itself the “Syrian Human Rights Network” as having condemned the
Istanbul conference “and its false decisions, considering that they only
represent the opinion of the defeated and fragmented opposition and traitors of
The group was also quoted as saying, “Those who put their
hands with Israel do not have the right to talk on behalf of the Syrian people
who consider the Palestinian cause as their central issue and offer thousands of
martyrs to destabilize the situation in the country.”
US Ambassador to
the United Nations Susan Rice said several council members had “expressed
concern that the government of Syria not use the next days to intensify the
violence and expressed some skepticism about the bona fides of the government in
Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja’afari,
confirmed that Damascus had accepted the April 10 deadline but said the
government wanted the opposition on board.
“A plan wouldn’t be successful
unless everybody is committed to it,” he said.
Russia chided Western and
Arab nations that set “ultimatums and artificial deadlines” for ending the
bloodshed in Syria and said it was not their place to judge peace envoy Annan’s
“Kofi Annan has a mandate from the [UN] secretary-general
and the Security Council. The Security Council will judge who should implement
his proposals, and how,” the Interfax news agency quoted Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov as saying during a visit to Armenia.
“Ultimatums and artificial
deadlines rarely help the matter,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.
there has been no sign of Assad keeping his promise to implement Annan’s
six-point peace plan, which calls for an end to violence and political dialogue
between the government and opposition aimed at a “political transition” for the
There is “no progress on the ground” so far, said a diplomat who
attended the Security Council meeting. Despite the lack of progress, Annan
suggested there might be the beginnings of a plan to end the yearlong conflict
and urged council members to “begin consideration of deployment of an observer
mission with a broad and flexible mandate,” according to the
Rice said that “in general, council members expressed a
willingness to consider Mr. Annan’s plan for a monitoring mission if
indeed a cessation of violence is achieved.”
The UN peacekeeping
department has already begun contingency planning for a UN ceasefire monitoring
mission that would have 200 to 250 unarmed observers. Such a mission would
require a Security Council resolution.
It was not immediately clear how
Russia was responding to Annan’s suggestions. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin
left the council without speaking to reporters.
Russia and China vetoed
two council resolutions condemning Assad’s assault on pro-democracy
demonstrations. The United Nations says Syrian soldiers and security forces have
killed more than 9,000 people over the past 12 months. Damascus says rebels have
killed 3,000 troops and police.
Meanwhile, the president of the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) made his way to Damascus on
Monday for talks aimed at expanding aid operations and gaining access to all
detainees, the agency said.
Jakob Kellenberger, whose two-day visit will
include stops in areas affected by the fighting, will push the ICRC’s proposal
made in February for a daily two-hour ceasefire in order to evacuate wounded and
deliver life-saving supplies to civilians.
“I am determined to see the
ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent expand their presence, range and scope of
activities to address the needs of vulnerable people,” he said in a
“This will be a key element of my talks with the Syrian
On the economic front, European Union sanctions forced
Syria’s sole supplier of heating fuel to halt deliveries on Monday, making it
hard for Syrians to cook and heat their homes and potentially widening
opposition to the Assad government.
For humanitarian reasons, the EU had
allowed Greek company Naftomar to continue supplying Syria in the winter with
liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) used for heating and cooking, but the bloc has now
blacklisted the Syrian company that handled the imports.
to Syria have stopped because of sanctions,” said a director at Naftomar, who
asked not to be named.
Most major oil firms had already severed ties with
Syria for fear of defying EU measures or being linked to a bloody crackdown in
which thousands have died.
Critics have said that Naftomar, by delivering
fuel worth at least $55 million each winter month, might have been helping to
extend Assad’s rule.