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Satellites said to show Syria 'not abiding by truce'

Satellite imagery and other credible reports show that, despite its claims, Syria has failed to withdraw all of its heavy weapons from populated areas.

Free Syrian Army fighters walk on street in Khaldiyeh neighborhood in Homs, Syria
Free Syrian Army fighters walk on street in Khaldiyeh neighborhood in Homs, Syria
Image: AP Photo

SATELLITE IMAGERY AND other credible reports show that, despite its claims, Syria has failed to withdraw all of its heavy weapons from populated areas as required by a cease-fire deal, international envoy Kofi Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said Tuesday.

Annan, who was giving a speech in Sweden and briefing the UN Security Council in New York, called on the Syrian government to fully implement its commitments under the truce, Fawzi told UN reporters in Geneva.

“This means withdrawal of all heavy armoury (weapons) from population centers and (sending them) back to the barracks. They are claiming that this has happened. Satellite imagery, however, and credible reports show that this has not fully happened, so this is unacceptable,” Fawzi said.

Annan also has become aware that UN cease-fire monitors are met with brief lulls of violence when they enter conflict areas such as Homs and Hama in Syria, and that people who speak them appear to be in danger afterward.

“When they (are there) the guns are silent. We have credible reports that when they leave, the (shelling) start again,” Fawzi said.

Reports of those seen talking to observers being targeted

There also have been credible reports about people who talk to the observers later being “approached by the Syrian security forces or the Syrian army, or even worse, perhaps killed and this is totally unacceptable,” he said.

The cease-fire is part of Annan’s peace plan, which aims to stop the 13-month-long violence in Syria, where more than 9,000 people are believed to have died during a government crackdown on a popular uprising.

Right now, there are only a small number of monitors on the ground in Syria, but the UN Security Council has authorised up to 300.

“With 11 or 12 monitors, you can’t be everywhere, and there are many cities that have seen destruction and have seen fighting, and we have to be present,” Fawzi said. “With up to 300, we will be able to monitor more cities than two to three at a time.”

Annan said in a speeach at Sweden’s Lund University that the use of UN staff to monitor conflicts such as the one in Syria ultimately can offer “no guarantee of protection” without strong international backing.

Clear international support needed

The use of observers requires “skilled staff, strong mandates and clear international support” — and their safety cannot always be assured, Annan said.

Annan spoke to mark the centenary of the birth of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who is widely credited with rescuing tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during World War II.

He said world powers should not always wait for conflicts to “erupt” before sending envoys or monitors.

“Too often the Security Council response is weak or non-existent; its actions driven not by principle but by politics and selectivity,” he said of the UN’s most powerful arm.

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