Assad Goes Back on Syrian Ceasefire Plan
Syria’s foreign ministry says it is no longer accurate to assume that it plans to withdraw its forces from cities and towns in line with the United Nations-backed peace plan which is due to take effect tomorrow.
President Bashar al-Assad had given assurances to special envoy Kofi Annan and Russia that he would keep the agreement to pull troops and tanks off the streets and implement the ceasefire this week.
But as the violence in Syria continues to escalate, he is now demanding written guarantees, firstly from “armed terrorist groups”, that they will do the same.
Opposition leaders say it is further proof the Syrian leader has no intention of keeping his word or giving up his grip on power.
The Syrian National Council says it is prepared to give such a guarantee but that it will make no difference.
A member of the Free Syrian Army says it does not recognise the Assad government and will give no such assurance.
The level of violence in Syria has escalated in recent days, in an apparent sign the Assad regime wants to crush all remaining resistance before any ceasefire takes effect.
Mr Annan, seeking to end the conflict that has killed more than 9,000 people in the past year, said the latest bloodshed violated the guarantees he had been given and urged Damascus to keep its promises.
“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,” he said in a statement.
On Thursday, the UN Security Council formally endorsed the deadline, but Damascus said a day later that the number of “terrorist acts” has risen since the deal was agreed with the UN and Arab League envoy.
Mr 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,” a ministry statement outlining the demands said.