Syrian opposition is calling for mass rallies as the first reports come in suggesting Thursday’s fragile ceasefire has been broken. Fears of fresh violence in the country are running high.
Syrian troops are clashing with rebels near the border with Turkey, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.
Earlier opposition activists called for mass protests, warning potential participants that president Assad’s government is likely to break Thursday’s truce and shoot.
Burhan Ghalioun, who is head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), said he does not trust the authorities and believes they have their “hand on the trigger”.
The Syrian Interior Ministry has warned only demonstrations agreed with the government will be tolerated by security forces.
A UN truce-monitoring force could be deployed to ease the tension if the Security Council agrees a resolution on Syria on Friday.
The draft based on Kofi Annan’s peace plan demands that the government “ensure full and unimpeded freedom of movement throughout Syria for all (observer) mission personnel”.
Monitors should be able to visit any place without prior notice, and interview anyone they want to, in private.
The group would consist of around 30 unarmed military observers working to prevent any collapse of the fragile ceasefire.
The UN Security Council also demands that Damascus withdraw all troops and heavy weapons from population centers.
A crucial part of the document is that Russia and China, who had previously opposed heavy pressure on the Syrian government, have agreed to support sanctions against Assad if he fails to implement these commitments.
RT’s correspondent in the Syrian capital Oksana Boyko reports that Damascus has greeted the ceasefire with a sunny day and high spirits. She says many there believe that if there is anything that can unite Syrians of all political stripes these days, it’s the opposition – opposition to war, that is. Watch her package above.
Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said he hoped a resolution could be passed on Friday.
“The full-fledged mission will take some time to deploy … If we are able to put 20 or 30 monitors [there] early next week, very good,” Churkin said. “If we are able to put more in the next few days, that’s even better.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who hosted the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in Washington this week, said that the ceasefire in Syria is an important step, but it represents just one element of Annan’s plan.
She accused president Assad of not complying with other parts of the plan, as he has not yet withdrawn troops from cities or accepted a political transition.
“The Annan plan is not a menu of options, it is a set of obligations,” Clinton stressed.
The UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan also calls for talks with the opposition aimed at a “political transition”, the release of political prisoners, access for humanitarian aid and journalists, and for the authorities to “respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully”.
Clinton met with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss the situation in Syria this week, but didn’t reveal details of the talks.
Lavrov stated that the G8 ministers highly welcomed the halt in fighting, which had raged for more than a year, killing 9,000 people, according to the UN.