Kofi Annan receives Syrian assurance on ceasefire
Less than 24 hours before the ceasefire is due to begin, Kofi Annan, the United Nations and Arab League envoy, has received Syria’s assurances of accordance to the deadline. Violence is due to come to an end at 6am on Thursday morning, with both Syrian army and opposition adherence necessary for success. Speaking from Moscow, Walid al-Muallem, Syria’s foreign minister, confirmed his country’s commitment to end the use of heavy weaponry.
This news comes despite reports from activists of continued violence in the areas of the country already hit the hardest, namely the rebel-held city of Homs, as well as reports of violence on the Turkish border. The government failed to observe a Tuesday deadline to withdraw troops and the fresh surge in violence is seen as a reaction to this.
Annan is currently in Tehran, Iran, in an attempt to secure the nation’s help in ending the violence. To date, Iran has shown strong support for Assad’s regime, but Annan has said that Iran had agreed that it was necessary to “find a peaceful solution to the crisis”.
Although there are claims that the plan has failed before it has even been implemented, with reports from the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) that 1,000 people have died in the last eight days, Annan retains faith in his plan, drawing attention to Syria’s endorsement and in addition, highlighting the lack of any other viable alternative. Many see this as the most realistic step towards a solution to the crisis.
“The political process must be Syrian-led and respect the aspirations of the Syrian people,” Annan said. “What is important is that governments in the region and beyond work with Syria to resolve the crisis.” The Nobel Peace Prize winner added that any attempts to arm opposition would be “disastrous”.
Western governments are in support of Annan’s plan, though they are condemning of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been in power since 2000, and are reluctant to believe promises of ceasefire so swiftly.
To date, the UN estimates the death toll by Syrian forces at more the 9,000. Damascus has reported that rebels have killed more than 2,500 soldiers and security personnel.