New Violence Tests Syrian Cease-Fire (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By CHARLES LEVINSON 04/16/12)
WALL STREET JOURNAL
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Syrian government forces fired artillery shells into opposition areas
of Homs on Sunday, as sporadic violence tested a fragile four-day-old
cease-fire, even as the first United Nations monitors arrived in
Violence levels in the 13-month-old uprising have dropped
dramatically since a truce, brokered by U.N.-Arab League peace envoy
Kofi Annan, took effect Thursday morning. Government forces have
mostly stopped shelling opposition strongholds in restive cities
throughout the country.
But sporadic violence has continued, and deep skepticism remains
about the government´s commitment to the truce deal. Opposition
activists said government security forces killed at least five people
Syria´s state-run SANA news agency accused rebels of killing four
people, and quoted a senior officer pledging action to stop "armed
terrorist groups from continuing their criminal aggressions,"
suggesting more violence is likely in coming days."The armed
terrorist groups have hysterically escalated their aggressions on the
army, the law-enforcement forces and the civilians," the SANA quoted
a Syrian military official as saying.
A delegation of six cease-fire monitors, led by a Moroccan colonel,
landed in Damascus late Sunday. An additional 25 to 30 U.N. monitors
are expected to join them later this week, redeployed from existing
U.N. missions in the region, said Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for Mr.
The monitors´ arrival stands as the best chance that the uprising
might find a diplomatic resolution after months of escalating
bloodshed. A vote Saturday by the U.N. Security Council approving the
monitoring mission marked the first time the 15-member council had
taken a unanimous stance on the conflict. Prior votes had been
blocked by opposition from Russia and China.
But Mr. Annan´s six-point peace plan and the U.N. observer mission
are off to uncertain starts. Government forces have refused to
withdraw their forces and heavy weaponry from contested Syrian cities
and return to their barracks, one of the six points agreed upon in
Mr. Annan´s plan. The government has also maintained bans on peaceful
demonstrations, violating another of the six points.
In addition, there are early hints of conflict surrounding
themonitors´ mission. Much of the international community, including
the U.S., Europe and their Arab allies, expects themonitors to be
able to move about freely in the country without Syrian government
minders. Russia, however, diluted the wording in the resolution,
giving the Syrian regime some wiggle room on the issue.
Syrian government spokeswoman and presidential adviser Bouthaina
Shaaban told the Reuters news agency on Sunday that the government
couldn´t guarantee monitors´ security unless it was involved in "all
steps on the ground," hinting that the Syrian government may be
intent on sending its own minders to accompany the monitors in the
The Syrian government hasn´t yet agreed to a larger deployment of 250
monitors. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to report to the
Security Council by Thursday with plans for the deployment, which
would require another Security Council resolution.
Mr. Annan´s team is also in discussions with the opposition about
creating a united negotiating team to begin political dialogue with
the government, another plank in Mr. Annan´s six-point plan.
If the peace holds, Mr. Annan hopes to press ahead with the dialogue
in a bid to broker a permanent settlement to the conflict, which
activists say has so far left more 10,000 people dead.
—Joe Lauria contributed to this article. (Copyright © Dow Jones &
Company, Inc.) 04/16/12)
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