- aid - Kofi Annan - Syria
Syria agrees to ceasefire deadline, Annan says
International envoy Kofi Annan told the United Nations Security Council on Monday that Syria has agreed to halt violence against anti-government protesters on April 10, as part of a six-point peace plan hoped to end the country's year-long crisis.
AP - International envoy Kofi Annan has set an April 10 deadline for full compliance with his six-point plan to end the yearlong violence in Syria, a U.N. diplomat said Monday.
The diplomat, who listened to Annan’s briefing to the U.N. Security Council on Monday, said the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy is willing to give President Bashar Assad’s government a little more time to implement the plan and stop the violence. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because the briefing was closed.
Annan’s plan to end the country’s crisis includes an immediate daily two-hour halt to fighting so humanitarian aid can reach suffering civilians. It also calls for an immediate withdrawal of troops and heavy military equipment from populated areas, and an overall cease-fire so all parties can discuss a political solution.
Assad accepted Annan’s plan a week ago, but late Friday the Syrian government rejected Annan’s call for the regime to halt violence first.
Annan had appealed for the Syrian authorities to stop military operations first as “the stronger party” in a “gesture of good faith” to the lightly armed opposition.
But Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said Friday the government will not pull tanks and troops from towns and cities engulfed by unrest before life returns to normal there.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov backed Annan on Monday, saying Syria’s government must take the first step toward settling the country’s conflict by pulling troops from city streets.
Raising pressure on an old ally, Lavrov added that the country’s opposition forces should quickly follow suit and withdraw, too.
His statement at a briefing in Armenia following talks with his Armenian counterpart appeared to reflect Moscow’s increasing impatience with Assad.
Russia, along with China, has twice shielded President Assad from United Nations sanctions over his crackdown on an uprising in which more than 9,000 people have been killed, according to the United Nations. But Moscow also has strongly supported Annan’s six-point plan.
“The Syrian government must take the first step and start the troop withdrawal in line with Kofi Annan’s plan,” Lavrov said.
But he cautioned that “unless the beginning of such withdrawal is accompanied by a similar action by all those fighting the government of Syria, I don’t think we will achieve any result.”
Lavrov also warned the West against giving ultimatums to Damascus, saying that the priority now should be to separate the warring parties and open the way for the delivery of humanitarian aid.
“Ultimatums and artificial deadlines rarely help,” he said. “We all want a quick end to bloodshed, but that demand should be addressed to all warring parties in Syria.”
In Geneva Monday, the president of the Red Cross said he had returned to Syria for a two-day visit aimed at convincing the country’s leaders to give more access to aid workers.
Jakob Kellenberger said in a statement that he also will raise “the issue of access to all places of detention” and how to stop the fighting for two hours a day. He said a daily pause is essential to evacuate the wounded and deliver aid.
Lavrov said Russia had chosen not to attend Sunday’s meeting of the “Friends of the Syrian People” in Turkey’s second biggest city, Istanbul, because its organizers had failed to invite Syrian government representatives.
“I think such an approach is dangerous and contradicts Kofi Annan’s efforts,” he said. “We are trying to be friends of all the Syrians, and not just some part of the Syrian people.”
He said that Moscow will soon host two separate opposition delegations for talks.