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UN Security Council Backs Syria Ceasefire Deadline

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday said it backs the April 10 deadline set by a six-point peace plan proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. The plan requires the Syrian government to halt use of heavy weaponry in towns and cities and withdraw its troops from populated areas.

According to the peace plan proposed by Annan, the Syrian government is required to pull back its troops and heavy weaponry from towns and cities by April 10 and enforce a full ceasefire within the next 48 hours.

In a statement issued Thursday, the UNSC gave its full backing to the ceasefire deadline set by Annan's peace plan and urged the Syrian government to implement the measures proposed in the plan "in their entirety by no later than 10 April, 2012."

"The Security Council calls upon the Syrian government to implement urgently and visibly its commitments ... to a) cease troop movements toward population centers, b) cease all use of heavy weapons in such centers, and c) begin pull back of military concentrations in and around population centers," the statement said.

"The Security Council calls upon all parties, including the opposition, to cease armed violence in all its forms within 48 hours of the implementation in their entirety by the Syrian government of measures a, b, c," the statement added.

The Council also requested Annan to propose mechanisms for overseeing the implementation of the ceasefire and to update the Council on the cessation of violence and implementation of the peace plan. The Council also stated that it would consider "further steps" against Damascus if it fails to meet the set deadline.

Later on Thursday, Annan told the UN General Assembly via video link from Geneva that he had requested the Syrian government and opposition to "issue clear instructions so that the message reaches across the country, down to the fighter and soldier at the local level".

He urged both the Syrian government and the opposition to seize the opportunity offered by his peace plan to end the crisis, saying: "Let us stop the killing and start a serious political dialogue." He added that a full ceasefire was expected to be in place by 06:00 local time (03:00 GMT) on 12 April.

Nevertheless, Annan noted that violence was continuing across Syria in spite of the government's claims that it has already withdrawn troops from three cities, and said: "Alarming levels of casualties and other abuses continue to be reported daily. Military operations in civilian population centers have not stopped."

Earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon requested the Assembly to fully back Annan in his mission to resolve the crisis in Syria, and warned about the deteriorating situation on the ground. He noted: "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."

Although previous efforts at the UN Security Council to end the crisis in Syria had met stiff resistance from several member nations, all of the 15 Council members as well as the Arab League have pledged their full support to Annan's peace plan.

Notably, Annan's plans has secured the full backing of China and Russia. The two nations had vetoed a West-backed resolution endorsing an Arab League plan for Syria at the UNSC on February 4. Incidentally, the two countries had jointly vetoed a Western resolution condemning repression in Syria in October.

Syria has been witnessing a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, whose government continues to use heavy artillery and armed troops to put down the unrest. According to the UN, more than 9,000 people have been killed since the unrest began a year ago. The Assad regime, however, blames "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign mercenaries for the violence.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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