UN Security Council Presses Syria on April 10 Cease-Fire

The situation in Syria “continues to deteriorate” as the government keeps up attacks on cities and towns ahead of a promised April 10 military pullback, said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The UN Security Council urged Syrian President Bashar al- Assad yesterday to stop using heavy weapons against the Syrian opposition and to “urgently and visibly” withdraw his forces from cities under an agreement negotiated by special envoy Kofi Annan. The Council asked all groups to cease armed violence within 48 hours of implementation of the pullback pledge.
At least 77 people were killed yesterday in the central cities of Homs and Hama, the northern Idlib region and the Damascus suburb of Douma, according to the Local Coordination Committees. Idlib, where 22 people were reported dead, is one of the areas where the government says it has started withdrawing forces. The Associated Press reported army attacks around Homs and in the suburbs of Damascus today.
“Despite the Syrian Government’s acceptance of the joint special envoy’s plan of initial proposals to resolve the crisis, the violence and assaults in civilian areas have not stopped,” Ban said, speaking to the UN General Assembly. In addition to those being killed, one million Syrians need humanitarian aid, he said.

‘Alarming’ Casualties

Annan said there are still “alarming levels” of casualties even as Syrian authorities informed him of troop withdrawals.
About 2,500 Syrians fled to Turkey in the past 24 hours, the biggest number to date, as the army used helicopters in operations near the Turkish border, Turkey’s official Anatolia news agency said, citing Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who invited UN officials to monitor developments from the border.
The UN Security Council called for implementation of Annan’s six-point proposal “aimed at bringing an immediate end to all violence and human rights violations, securing humanitarian access and facilitating a Syrian-led political transition leading to a democratic, plural political system.”
At least 9,000 people have been killed in the yearlong conflict, the UN estimates. A group of UN officials, led by a Norwegian major-general, arrived in Damascus yesterday to begin preparations for a cease-fire monitoring force if the Syrian government complies, Annan said.

Russian Call

The rebel Free Syrian Army accepts the UN cease-fire call, provided Assad’s government stops violence against civilians, the militia’s deputy leader, Colonel Malek Al Kurdi, told Al Jazeera television today.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the conflict in Syria with Annan in a telephone call yesterday, urging Syrian opposition groups to “undertake concrete measures” to contribute to peace efforts, according to a statement published on the ministry’s website.
Syria says it is fighting foreign terrorists, armed gangs and Islamists, and blames countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the U.S. for aiding the opposition.
Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari called a press conference late yesterday to attack General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, who is from Qatar, for refusing to allow him to present Syria’s position at the assembly, according to the Associated Press.
To contact the reporter on this story: Terry Atlas in Washington at tatlas@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net