Syrian Govt. Observs the Ceasefire as Deadline Passes
Silence engulfed Syria on Thursday morning as the deadline imposed by U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan for the ceasefire was reached, but no pullout of the cities was noted, activists said. The Syrian Defense Ministry announced that the regime in Damascus has decided to honor the ceasefire after it was successful in combating the “terrorist groups” which had attacked the state.
The Syrian National Council, which is an umbrella for various factions of the opposition, and attempts to overthrow Assad’s rule, said that some arrests and raids on government’s opponents have been made on Thursday morning. The SNC also said that it was not clear how long the agreement would be observed.
A source at the Defense Ministry told the New York Times that the military would be on alert to combat all attacks against civilians, law enforcement members, armed forces and public and private facilities. This would be indicative of the fact that though the Syrian government met the second stage of Anna’s plan, the ceasefire, it has not yet completed the first state, the pull back of the military from the streets of the city.
Activists in Homs, the most embattled place in Syria, said that there had been no shelling, gunfire or any violence in the city for hours. The ceasefire followed a bloody night in Homs, but the soldiers were said to still be fully deployed in the city and their checkpoints in place.
A spokesman for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported from London that the ceasefire has been enduring for more than an hour after 6:00 a.m. and that the situation was calm in all regions with the exception of the town of Zabadani, where some explosions had been heard according to a report of the Agence France Press. Some reports said that the explosions in Zabadani occurred before the ceasefire entered into effect.
Associated Press notes that Assad’s regime chose to observe the Annan plan in a personal manner, by ending the conflict throughout the country, but keeping military presence all over it, which, the agency’s report says, represents a violation of the plan put forward by the former secretary general of the United Nations.
AP comments that the Syrian president seems to want to keep a military presence everywhere in the country for fear of anti-presidential protests throughout the country. A real test of the ceasefire’s endurance will the on Friday, when the people in Syria attend the noon prayer and usually stage their protests against the regime.
The Free Syrian Army, a group of rebels composed of people who defected from the governmental troops over the last year, said that they would abide by the ceasefire installed by the government on Thursday morning.
The major risk for the regime of Bashar al-Assad, analysts say, is that the pullback of the military from the streets would make it possible for scores of peaceful protesters to invade the streets and demand the ouster of the president, creating a fervor similar to the one in the Tahrir Square, in Egypt, in January 2011.
This would explain Assad’s desire that the pullback be accompanied by written guarantees that the place left vacant by the troops will not be filled with rebels. Since the regime considers everyone protesting against it as terrorist, the guarantees were probably intended to stop just this kind of protests that would demand the ouster of the president.
The ceasefire comes as a surprise for the diplomatic community, as the hopes of an agreement seemed shattered on Tuesday, after the deadline for the pullout expired without any progress being made.
No alternative plan was made for the event in which the plan were to break down and none could be made considering the fact that the Western countries do not to commit themselves to a military invasion, which would anger Russia and China, probably Iran too, and would destabilize the entire Middle East area.
On Thursday, Kofi Annan is expected to brief the United Nations Security Council on his progress with the negotiations in Iran and with the progress observed in Turkey with respect to the way the Syrian regime was observing the plan it had agreed to. Annan was expected on Wednesday to propose the council to take any further steps it deemed necessary, as at the time his plan seemed to be compromised.
On Wednesday, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in China that his country as thinking more seriously about imposing a buffer zone along the border with Syria, which would actually mean the going of the army into Syrian territory and going to war with Syrian.
Erdogan motivated what seemed to be the only alternative to the plan of Kofi Annan by the influx of immigrants that come from Syria and by the fact that their arrival to Turkey has been made more difficult by the security forces, which have fired upon them at the border, killing five, and wounding two Turkish nationals.
Erdogan’s plan seemed to have been discussed with Washington and to have gain more support over the past few weeks, but a final decision was yet to be made.
Turkish PM said that over the past eight days the regime in Damascus killed about 100 people per day and caused some 10,000 to head for the border with Turkey. The presence of the security around the border zones with Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey is said to make it even more difficult for the troops to walk across the border zone.
Erdogan was said by the Turkish press to have evoked the possibility to call on the NATO countries to defend Turkish border according to Article 5 of the NATO Charter. The decision that would be made is said to depend on whether NATO deems the conflict at the Turkish border an invasion.
An editorialist for Turkish Today’s Zaman proposed two ways the buffer could be installed without a lack of legitimacy and with no violation of the international laws. The first one refers to the 1998 Adana Agreement between Syria and Turkey, by whose article 1 Syria vows not to do anything to destabilize the neighboring country, while the second refers to a 2010 agreement between the two countries, which stipulates that the two government could join forces to hunt terrorists across each border. Since the Syrian National Council has already been recognized by the Friends of Syria as the only legitimate representative of the Syrian people, thus the government-in-exile, in exile in Turkey that is, Turkey could take the opportunity to demand them to walk across the border and install the buffer zones which are meant to protect the Syrian civilians.11