Uneasy Quiet Descends on Syria
Apr 15, 2012
An uneasy calm is taking hold in Syria, hours after a United Nations-brokered cease-fire went into effect. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says there have no reports of violence since the 6 a.m. local time deadline. The deal set out by U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan aims to end 13 months of violence and bloodshed. Syria’s government promised to comply with the truce. But it warned in a statement Wednesday its armed forces will remain on standby to retaliate against any attacks by armed terrorist groups against civilians or troops. Despite the calm, many Syrian refugees are skeptical. One unidentified refugee staying on the Turkish side of the border said nothing from President Bashar al-Assad’s government could be trusted. “”We do not trust in the words of Bashar Assad because he is a liar. His government is lying,”” said the refugee. “”All the countries know this.”” Refugee Huseyin Kasif at the Yayladagi Refugee Camp in Turkey also dismissed Assad’s intentions, accusing him of spewing “”gibberish.”” “”This ceasefire will not stay long. He [Syrian President Assad] has been promising this for a year. I do not think he will withdraw neither tanks nor troops,”” he said. “”He is lying. Whenever he says he will end the massacre, he kills more.” The deal brokered by Kofi Annan called for Syria’s government to withdraw its forces from major urban areas by April 10 and stop combat operations by Thursday. Assad’s government said it began a phased withdrawal Tuesday. But opponents say government shelling continued in many areas and that at least 11 people were killed Wednesday in flashpoint opposition areas, including the central Homs region and Damascus suburbs. In a statement Wednesday, Syria said the army had successfully fought off “”armed terrorist groups”” and has “”reasserted the state’s rule across the country.”” The deal also calls for opposition forces to stop fighting. The Obama administration Wednesday called on Damascus to match its words with deeds. At a meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed alarm at the ongoing violence in Syria, and concern about the problems facing special envoy Kofi Annan in his efforts to bring about a cease-fire and an end to the violence. White House spokesman Jay Carney cautioned that Assad’s regime has reneged on promises to stop the violence in the past. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Syria’s promise to halt hostilities by Thursday cannot be construed as complying with Annan’s six-point peace plan. She said nothing casts more doubt on the credibility of the commitments than the fact that, in her words, “”commitments have been made and made, and broken and broken and broken.”” The United States and its Western partners have pressed for stronger action against Syria for months but have been hindered by Russian and Chinese opposition to what those two nations call outside interference in Syria. Russia said Wednesday that since the Syrian government had pledged to halt its offensive on Thursday, it is now the armed opposition’s turn to do the same. Syrian Network for Human Rights chairman Mousab Azzawi said Wednesday that the Syrian government continued efforts to punish dissenters, in spite of its promises to the international community, and that Annan should admit that his peace initiative has failed. “”Everything he has been promised by the regime, the regime just tries to find a loophole in the initiative and tries to empty the initiative,”” he said. U.N. officials say more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began 13 months ago.