© The Financial Times Ltd 2015 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
Last updated: April 12, 2012 8:44 pm
Syria’s fragile ceasefire is set to be tested by mass protests on Friday despite the continued presence of government troops and heavy weapons in urban areas.
Kofi Annan, the UN and Arab League envoy, said on Thursday that Syria was experiencing a “rare moment of calm on the ground” which “must be sustained”. But he added that the government was not in full compliance with the terms of the ceasefire and called for the immediate withdrawal of security forces from cities, in accordance with the truce.
“Given the Assad regime’s record of broken promises, we are proceeding, understandably, with caution,” said Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, in reaction to the day’s events.
Both the opposition and the regime claimed the ceasefire was not being fully observed. State media reported that “terrorists” had targeted a bus carrying soldiers to the second city of Aleppo with a roadside bomb, killing an officer.
The opposition, meanwhile, said the regime was only “partially” observing the cessation of hostilities. According to the UK-based Syrian Human Rights Observatory, five people were killed across the country on Friday, three of them by snipers.
“To us it is clear that the ceasefire implied the withdrawal of all heavy weaponry from cities [and] populated areas. This has not happened,” said Basma Kodmani, spokesperson for the opposition’s main umbrella group, the Syrian National Council.
“All people tomorrow will say that demonstration is our right,” added an activist in Damascus. “I think tomorrow will be a test for the security forces.”
The UN-backed ceasefire agreement called for the government and rebel forces to end hostilities by 6am local time on Thursday. Shortly after the deadline, calm was reported across the country’s conflict hotspots.
The ceasefire is part of Mr Annan’s six-point plan, backed by the UN Security Council, to end the violence in Syria. But the plan also called for the regime immediately to stop using heavy weapons in cities. With activists reporting heavy shelling of Homs the day before the ceasefire was due to take effect, there is widespread scepticism about its durability, in spite of the apparent quiet.
In New York, UN diplomats began to debate a resolution approving the deployment of roughly 200 monitors, which they hoped would be approved by Friday. However, the observers will take some days to move into position and calls for the mass protests on Friday will test the ceasefire.
“The absence of a referee is not going to be helpful at this stage because stories will start flying around,” said Salman Shaikh, of the Brookings Doha Center think-tank. “I believe we’ve got a small window here.”
Syria’s foreign minister, Jihad Makdissi, said his government was committed to maintaining the ceasefire. “We are fully committed for this,” he told the BBC. “We have a clear mechanism now in place, which is the Annan plan. We are enabling him.”
Additional reporting by Tom Gara in Dubai and Daniel Dombey in Istanbul
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.