UN chief, Arab League up pressure on Syria
Published Friday, April 27, 2012
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday the Syrian government had not complied with its pledge to a UN-backed peace plan aimed at stopping the country from spiraling into civil war because it had not withdrawn heavy weapons and troops from cities.
The secretary-general said in a statement that unarmed UN military observers in Syria had reported a "continued presence of heavy weapons, military equipment, and army personnel in population centers." Ban said he was "deeply troubled" by that.
The statement from Ban's press office said he considered that a "contravention of the Syrian Government's commitments to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from these areas" and demanded that Damascus comply with its pledge without delay.
A shaky ceasefire was implemented earlier this month under a peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem wrote to Annan on Saturday to inform him that Damascus had withdrawn heavy weapons and troops from cities, according to Syria's UN envoy, Bashar Ja'afari.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Saturday that authorized an initial deployment of up to 300 unarmed military observers to Syria for three months to monitor the truce.
Only 15 are in place so far out of a team to be led by Norwegian General Robert Mood.
Despite the truce, daily fighting has continued.
An explosion on Wednesday killed 16 people in the city of Hama. Syria blamed "terrorist" bomb-makers for the blast, while an opposition group, the Local Coordination Committees, said it was a military rocket that killed more than 50 people.
"The Secretary-General is gravely alarmed by reports of continued violence and killing in Syria, including shelling and explosions in various residential areas as well as armed clashes," Ban's statement said.
"This situation is unacceptable and must stop immediately," it said.
Arab League demands UN action
The Arab League plans to call on the Security Council to take immediate action to protect Syrian civilians, it said in a statement released after an Arab League meeting.
"The Arab League will assign its Arab representatives in the UN Security Council in the meeting set to take place May 5 to ask the Security Council to protect Syrian civilians immediately," a final statement said.
The final statement dropped a reference included in an earlier draft seen by Reuters to Chapter 7 of the Security Council charter, which allows it to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention.
The Gulf-influenced Arab League has taken a hardline toward the Assad regime, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar actively supporting rebels to topple the Syrian leader.
Their involvement has irked some opposition elements who fear the Gulf dictatorships are seeking to undermine pro-democracy efforts by turning Syria into a proxy battleground with regional rival, Iran.