The deadline for Syria’s UN-brokered ceasefire aimed at curtailing the conflict has arrived with no immediate reports of violence. However, doubts have been voiced on the international stage whether the regime and the rebels can keep to the truce.
The Syrian government told UN-Arab League Envoy Kofi Annan that regime troops would cease fighting at 03:00 GMT on Thursday morning. UN spokesman Ahmad Fawsi says the Assad regime reserves “the right to respond proportionately to any attacks.”
As a test to Assad’s ceasefire the head of the opposition group the Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun appealed to Syrians to “demonstrate and express themselves.”
Calling the Syrian people out onto the streets he said the right to “demonstrate is the principle point of the plan” set out by Kofi Annan.
Simultaneously, he urged the international community to provide Syrians with protection by sending observers to monitor the situation.
However, it will take more time for the UN to respond to the request and deploy observers.
The Syrian Defense Ministry announced the ceasefire on state television on Wednesday, but neglected to mention the withdrawal of regime troops from urban areas stipulated in envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan.
Syria’s government stated that it had begun the gradual pullout of its forces from “certain provinces” on Tuesday.
Activists from the Syrian opposition say that they have seen no sign of tanks and security forces withdrawing from urban centers.
Meanwhile, the international community has doubted the Assad regime’s commitment to maintaining the ceasefire.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the government’s promise to halt violence had “little or no credibility.”
“The burden remains squarely on the Syrian regime and not the opposition in the first instance to meet its obligations in full and visibly under the Annan plan,” Rice told reporters on Thursday
Russia which has defended the Assad’s regime’s legitimacy on the international stage urged the Syrian opposition to follow suit and keep to the ceasefire. Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia was holding talks with the opposition to push for a truce but emphasized “some of our international partners tell them different things and prevent the opposition from making any concessions – this is wrong.”
US secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to meet with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov this Thursday in Washington at a G8 foreign ministers’ summit where the Syrian conflict is expected to take center stage.
Kofi Annan will also brief the UN Security Council on his assessment of the conflict situation.
Adel Samara, a Ramalla-based political analyst described the ceasefire as a waiting game in which both sides are waiting to see who will fire first.
“We have to wait 24 hours to judge whether it is a real ceasefire,” he told RT.
If the ceasefire holds he added that opposition representatives conducting negotiations with Assad should come from “inside Syria.”
The UN estimates 9,000 people have been killed since the anti-Assad uprising began in March of last year.