UNITED NATIONS - UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has said the situation in Syria is “bleak,” expressing concern at reports the government was still conducting military operations despite the ceasefire. But analysts say the West’s biased approach is to blame for that.
Addressing the UN Security Council via video-teleconference from Geneva, he called the situation in the country “unacceptable” and expressed his concern over media reports of government troops attacking the city of Hama, where UN observers are not present. “If confirmed, this is totally unacceptable and reprehensible,” Annan said.
Annan also called for the speedy deployment of all of the 300 UN observers to monitor the observance of a two-week-old ceasefire.
Annan’s briefing to the Council followed a spokesman’s briefing, in which he said satellite imagery and other credible reports show Syria failed to withdraw heavy weaponry from major urban areas despite prior claims to the contrary. Annan’s spokesperson Ahmed Fawzi also said reliable intelligence indicated that Syrian forces would harass, arrest or kill people that approach observers. Speaking to the media Annan’s briefing, Ambassador Susan Rice of the United States, which holds the Council’s presidency this month, said the envoy had told Council members that the situation in Syria “continues to be unacceptable” and expressed concern that attacks resumed in locations directly following the departure of members of a UN observer team.
The envoy described the attacks as “unacceptable and reprehensible, if true,” Ambassador Rice said.
“Several council members expressed their scepticism of the Syrian government’s intentions and the veracity of statements contained in the Syrian Foreign Minister’s recent letter to the Joint Special Envoy,” Amb. Rice said. “All Council members underscored the need for more rapid deployment of observers and stressed the importance of full and immediate implementation of all aspects of the six-point plan.”
According to Amb. Rice, Under-Secretary-General Ladsous told the Council that 11 military observers are currently on the ground in Syria, and that UNSMIS’ Chief Military Observer will be deployed by the end of the week, with 30 observers expected by 30 April, and 100 observers within a month.
AFP adds: The United Nations on Friday will name Major General Robert Mood to head a ceasefire observer mission in Syria struggling to get monitors into the country, diplomats said.
UN member states have so far offered only 100 military officers for the unarmed force given the risky mission of checking a cessation of hostilities that has barely held in Syria since April 12. A total of 300 observers has been proposed, accompanied by about 90 civilian support staff and experts.
Meanwhile, France warned Wednesday that it may push for a resolution allowing the use of force in Syria and said it wanted UN monitors to deploy within a fortnight as the peace plan was “strongly compromised”.
“Things are not going well, the (Kofi) Annan plan is strongly compromised but there is still a chance for this mediation, on the condition of the rapid deployment of the 300 monitors,” Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said. He said he wanted them deployed “within a fortnight, not in three months.” Juppe said that May 5 - when Annan is to present his next report on the peace process - would be “a moment of truth”.
Meanwhile, at least 27 civilians and three soldiers were killed on Wednesday in violence across Syria, a rights watchdog said, 13 days after a tenuous truce came into effect.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four people were killed on a bus raked with gunfire by security forces at a checkpoint near Khan Sheikhun, a town in the restive northwestern province of Idlib. Another person was reportedly killed by gunfire in the village of Shatouria.
In the southern province of Daraa, violent clashes erupted between armed rebels and government forces in the town of Bosra al-Sham, the Britain-based watchdog said.
Heavy machinegun fire and shelling by regime forces was reported, with an elderly man killed when his home was hit by a mortar, and another person dying in the clashes.
Three soldiers were killed in clashes with armed rebel groups and one citizen was killed by random shooting in the town of Tafas, also in Daraa, according to the Observatory.
One child died after being struck by gunfire in a village in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
And regime forces shot dead one citizen in the town of Rastan, in the central province of Homs, the Observatory reported.
In Douma, a northeastern suburb of Damascus, the NGO said two citizens, including a teenage girl, were killed by sniper fire, with regime forces conducting raids, searching for people wanted by the authorities.
It was unclear whether UN monitors, who visited Douma on Wednesday, were present before or after the shootings and raids took place.
In another Damascus suburb, Harasta, two civilians were killed by regime forces.