Activists Report Quiet but No Pullback of Forces in Syria
After months of intensifying bloodshed, an uncertain cease-fire backed by the United Nations and brokered by the special envoy Kofi Annan went into effect in Syria early on Thursday with mutual accusations of scattered infractions by the antagonists but none of the by-now-familiar reports of shelling by government forces and mayhem in major cities.
“I am encouraged by reports that the situation in Syria is relatively quiet and that the cessation of hostilities appears to be holding,” Mr. Annan said in a statement from his Geneva office. “Syria is apparently experiencing a rare moment of calm on the ground.”
Mr. Annan asked the Security Council to authorize the deployment of United Nations monitors in Syria, assuming the cease-fire holds. Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations and the current president of the Security Council, said members would be meeting later to negotiate the terms. “It is our interest and shared aim to negotiated that text as swiftly as possible,” Ms. Rice said.
Despite the lull in violence, many diplomats remained skeptical about its duration. Both Mr. Annan and Ms. Rice emphasized that his entire six-point plan had yet to be implemented and that Syria had not fully complied with a key provision — the withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from major population centers.
“Mr. Annan was clear that what the Syrian government has done today does not constitute full compliance,” Ms. Rice told reporters at the United Nations after the council was briefed by Mr. Annan via private video-link.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who also spoke with Mr. Annan on Thursday, told reporters while visiting Geneva: “The onus is on the government of Syria to prove that their words will be matched by their deeds at this time.”
The exiled Syrian National Council opposition, which is seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, said that there were reports of raids and arrests of the government’s opponents in some suburbs of Damascus and that it was not clear how long the guns would remain silent.