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UN Chief Concerned Over Syria's Failure To Comply With Peace Plan

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "remains deeply troubled" over the Syrian government's failure to withdraw its troops and heavy weaponry from populated areas as agreed under a previously accepted peace plan, according to a statement released by his office on Thursday.

"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. He condemns in the strongest terms the continued repression against the Syrian civilian population and violence from any quarter. This situation is unacceptable and must stop immediately," the statement said.

It said the U.N. chief "remains deeply troubled by the continued presence of heavy weapons, military equipment and Army personnel in population centers, as reported by United Nations Military Observers, which is in contravention of the Syrian government's commitments to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from these areas."

Demanding that the Syrian government fully comply with its commitments made under the peace plan without delay, Ban reminded "all concerned parties, particularly the Government of Syria, of the need to ensure that conditions for the effective operation of the United Nations Military Observers are put in place immediately, including a sustained cessation of armed violence."

Currently, a six-member U.N. observer mission is in Syria to monitor and verify implementation of a ceasefire agreed by both the Syrian government and the Opposition under a peace plan proposed by U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan for ending the ongoing violence in the restive Middle East nation.

Annan's six-point peace plan required the Syrian government to pull back troops and heavy weaponry from urban areas and enforce a full ceasefire by April 12. The plan also seeks to kick-start an inclusive political dialogue as well as the release of arbitrarily detained people, freedom of movement for journalists and the right to demonstrate.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) had voted on Sunday to expand the strength of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) to 300 and authorized it to monitor the situation in the country for three months.

An advance team of 30 unarmed military observers had already been dispatched to Syria ahead of UNSMIS' deployment to liaise with the parties and to begin to report on the implementation of a full cessation of armed violence.

Earlier this week, Annan had told the UNSC that Syria was still witnessing "unacceptable" levels of violence even after all concerned accepted ceasefire that came into force earlier this month. He said the overall situation in the country remained "entirely contrary to the will of the international community."

Annan also expressed concern over reports that Syrian security forces continued to attack civilian areas visited by a team of U.N.-backed observers trying to monitor a fragile peace plan aimed at resolving the ongoing crisis.

The U.N. estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since a popular unrest against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. Nevertheless, the Assad government blames "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign mercenaries for the violence.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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