Syria Update – Fragile Ceasefire in Effect: Annan issues statement, briefs Security Council
A ceasefire came into effect at 6am Damascus time today, as part of U.N.-Arab League joint envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan. Annan said it appears to be holding and he is requesting that the Security Council quickly authorize an observer mission to monitor the truce, which is also supposed to mark the beginning of a political process between the Syrian government and the opposition. Other elements of his plan include unhindered humanitarian access, freedom of association and the right to protest, the release of arbitrarily detained protesters, and a non-discriminatory visa policy for journalists.
In a briefing to the council on Thursday, Annan told the 15-nation body that there were some violations of the truce in the hours after it came into effect but that this was normal in the early stages of a ceasefire as both sides test each other, U.S. envoy Susan Rice said. Annan also told the council in a closed briefing that the Syrian government was not in full compliance of his peace plan as it has not withdrawn all troops and heavy weapons from urban areas, as it was required to do by April 10, she said . He also urged the council to authorize the deployment of an advance team of some 30 observers to monitor the ceasefire. Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that authorization may come as early as Friday. Rice, president of the council for April, said urgent negotiations on the text of a draft resolution would take place Thursday afternoon.
The full observer mission, if it happens (if the truce holds), is expected to consist of about 200-250 unarmed monitors to be re-deployed from existing peacekeeping missions in the Golan Heights, Lebanon and, possibly, Sudan.