UN’s Ban: Syria Violating Pledge to Pull Weapons From Civilian Areas
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has accused Syria of violating a pledge to withdraw heavy weapons from population centers and demanded that the government comply with that commitment “without delay.”
In a statement released Thursday, Mr. Ban says U.N. observers in Syria have reported a continued presence of heavy weapons, military equipment and troops in civilian areas “in contravention” of an April 12 truce backed by government and rebel forces. The U.N. chief says he is “deeply troubled” by the observers’ findings.
Mr. Ban also condemned violence by all sides in Syria’s year-long conflict and urged the parties, particularly the Syrian government, to ensure that the 15 unarmed U.N. truce monitors can operate effectively.
A spokesman for international envoy Kofi Annan said Thursday U.N. monitors inspected the site of an explosion that flattened a block of houses in the central city of Hama on the previous day, killing at least 16 people. Ahmad Fawzi said he had no immediate word on what the observers saw.
The Syrian government blamed the Hama incident on “terrorists” whom it said were preparing explosives that detonated prematurely. But, opposition activists blamed government forces, saying artillery shells destroyed the homes. Activists also reported at least seven people killed in violence related to the Syrian conflict on Thursday.
Syria has said it will honor the truce and other elements of Mr. Annan’s peace plan for the country, but will respond to attacks by foreign-backed “terrorists” whom it says are behind the 13-month opposition uprising. Syrian Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said Thursday that terrorists have breached the cease-fire more than 1,300 times since April 12.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it blames most of Syria’s violence on armed opposition groups, accusing them of resorting to regional terrorism. Moscow is a longtime ally of autocratic Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.