Annan ‘shocked’ by violence as Syria delays pullback


Peace envoy Kofi Annan on Sunday said he was shocked by mounting violence in Syria ahead of a UN deadline for regime forces to cease fire, as Damascus said its troops will not withdraw from protest hubs without written guarantees.
“I am shocked by recent reports of a surge in violence and atrocities in several towns and villages in Syria, resulting in alarming levels of casualties, refugees and displaced persons, in violation of assurances given to me,” Annan said in a statement.
It came as Syria’s main opposition group urged UN intervention after one of the deadliest days in a year saw nearly 130 people killed, mostly civilians.
As Tuesday’s deadline loomed for regime forces to cease fire and pull back from rebel cities, the foreign ministry said it had not been given assurances that “armed terrorist groups” would also put down their guns.
“To say that Syria will pull back its forces from towns on April 10 is inaccurate, Kofi Annan having not yet presented written guarantees on the acceptance by armed terrorist groups of a halt to all violence,” it said.
On Thursday, the UN Security Council formally endorsed the deadline, but Damascus said a day later the number of “terrorist acts” has risen since the deal was agreed with the UN and Arab League envoy. “Mr Annan has not submitted written guarantees from the governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey on stopping their funding to terrorist groups,” the ministry added of its northern neighbour and strongest critics in the Arab world.
Annan’s peace plan foresees the withdrawal of the Syrian army from protest cities on Tuesday, with a complete end to fighting 48 hours later.
“Syria is not going to repeat what happened in the presence of Arab observers when armed forces left towns,” Sunday’s ministry statement said.
“Armed terrorist groups reorganised and rearmed to control entire neighbourhoods, committing every possible terrorist act, killing and kidnapping people and destroying public and private property.”
The ministry said that when Annan met President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, the former UN chief “said he would work to stop the violence, disarm armed groups… initiate a comprehensive national dialogue with opposition movements.”
“It is this principle on which Syria accepted Annan’s mission and his six-point plan.” However, the ministry also expressed the government’s willingness to cooperate “in the hope of obtaining documented guarantees.”
In a statement in Geneva, Annan said: “I remind the Syrian government of the need for full implementation of its commitments and stress that the present escalation of violence is unacceptable,” calling on the regime and the opposition to cease all forms of violence by Thursday. “This is a time when we must all urgently work towards a full cessation of hostilities, providing the space for humanitarian access and creating the conditions for a political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people.” Annan said he was in “constant contact” with the government, and asked “all states with influence on the parties to use it now to ensure an end to the bloodshed and the beginning of dialogue.”
Coincidentally, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem is scheduled to travel to ally Moscow on Monday.
The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed since anti-regime protests broke out in March 2011, while monitors put the number at more than 10,000. The main umbrella opposition group the Syrian National Council called for UN intervention after monitoring groups said 86 of nearly 130 people killed on Saturday were civilians.
Another 11 were killed on Sunday.
“We urge the UN Security Council to intervene urgently to stop the humanitarian crisis caused by the regime against the unarmed Syrian people, by adopting a resolution under Chapter 7 to ensure the protection of civilians,” the SNC said. It said that “to believe in the promises of this barbaric regime enables it to advance its criminal plan of tearing Syria apart and bathing it in blood.” “The regime has committed savage massacres that killed nearly 1,000 people since it falsely announced the acceptance of the (Annan) plan.”
The SNC said it and the rebel Free Syrian Army “have announced their cooperation with the Annan plan and international efforts to halt the bloodshed and launch a political way to transfer power from the hands of Assad and his clan to the Syrian people.”