Syria situation 'bleak' says Kofi Annan

 

International envoy Kofi Annan has told the United Nations Security
Council that the situation in Syria is "bleak" and expressed alarm at
reports that government troops are still carrying out military
operations in towns where UN observers are not present.

He expressed particular concern at media reports that government troops entered the central city of Hama on Monday after UN observers departed, firing automatic weapons and killing a significant number of people. Activists said more than 30 people were killed.

"If confirmed, this is totally unacceptable and reprehensible," Mr Annan said.

Annan echoed UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who called the current situation "unacceptable" and urged President Bashar Assad's government to immediately implement his six-point peace-plan, which would culminate with Syrian-led talks between the government and opposition aimed at reaching a peace settlement.

The joint UN-Arab League envoy said the speedy deployment of the 300-strong UN observer force authorised by the council on Saturday was "crucial" to verify what was happening on the ground and potentially "change the political dynamics".

The observer force also would provide the international community with "incontrovertible" information to increase pressure for a ceasefire by the government and opposition, he said.

Mr Annan briefed the security council by video conference hours after his spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, told UN Television in Geneva that satellite imagery and other credible reports showed that, despite its claims, Syria had failed to withdraw all of its heavy weapons from populated areas as required by the ceasefire deal it accepted.

Mr Fawzi also cited credible reports that "people who approach the observers may be approached by security forces or Syrian army and harassed or arrested or even worse, perhaps killed".

Mr Annan did not mention either the satellite photos or the harassment and possible killing of people who talked to the observers in the text of his closed briefing, which was obtained by The Associated Press, but he stressed that "the government cannot cease action in one area to resume it in another".

He told the council the Syrian foreign minister had informed him in a letter on April 21 of the withdrawal of troops and heavy equipment from populated areas and the handover of responsibility to police for maintaining law and order.

He said he replied that this means troops should be back in barracks and weapons placed in storage "rather than operationally deployed" and that civilians should not be endangered by police actions.

Mr Annan said the minister's letter was "encouraging" and would make "a real difference ... if it is scrupulously applied". But he added pointedly: "It should be understood that the only promises that count are the promises that were kept."

US ambassador Susan Rice told reporters after the briefing that "several council members expressed their scepticism on the Syrian government's intentions and the veracity of statements contained in the Syrian foreign minister's letter".

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose country is Syria's most important ally, noted that some council members said "they have information" that Syria had not withdrawn its troops and heavy weapons.

"If this is the case, if the promise in the letter has not really been carried out, that would mean it is a breach of the promise they have made on Saturday," he told reporters. "I'm certainly going to bring it to the attention of Moscow that there is an issue that needs to be looked at."

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton told reporters in Washington that "the responsibility rests with Assad and with his supporters and his military to demonstrate a commitment to the Annan plan by silencing the guns".

"Unfortunately, the Assad regime has broken its commitments time and again," she said. "So even as we work to help deploy the monitors, we are preparing additional steps in case the violence continues or the monitors are prevented from doing their work."

Mr Annan said that in addition to the reported military attacks, Syria's implementation of the other points in his peace plan - including unrestricted access for journalists and humanitarian workers and allowing peaceful demonstrations - "remains partial".

He welcomed the council's initial authorisation of a 30-member advance team of UN observers, and its approval of a 300-strong UN observer team, stressing the importance of getting "eyes and ears on the ground" with the ability to move freely and swiftly.

Ms Rice said UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the council that 11 observers were currently in Syria, including two in Homs and two in Hama. He predicted 30 observers would be on the ground by April 30 and 100 observers within a month, she said.

Mr Ladsous reported that the Syrian government refused at least one observer based on his nationality and stated that it would not accept any observers or civilians for the mission from countries that were members of the Friends of Democratic Syria, Ms Rice said. The group includes more than 70 countries including the US, many European countries and a number of Middle East nations.

"He underscored that from the UN's point of view, this is entirely unacceptable," Ms Rice said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links