Syria Calmer Amid Annan’s Cease-Fire Deadline
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JEFFREY BROWN: Next tonight, a cease-fire begins in Syria.
We start our coverage with a report from Neil Connery of Independent Television News.
NEIL CONNERY: The Syrian army has not gone away, but since dawn, its guns have largely been silent.
These images are said to show the battered city of Daraa, tanks dug in, but in the absence of gunfire, early signs of people returning to the streets. This is Idlib, scene of a ferocious bombardment. The shelling has stopped, but the government armor remains.
It’s a similar picture in Homs. This opposition fighter says that all is quiet now, but points down to the tanks and other army vehicles that have not been withdrawn as they should under the Annan peace plan. The U.N. has acknowledged a significant improvement on the ground, but remains skeptical.
BAN KI-MOON, United Nations secretary-general: As of this moment, the situation looks calmer. We are following it very closely. The world is watching, however, with skeptical eyes since many promises previously made by the government of Syria have not been kept.
NEIL CONNERY: This isolated and unexplained explosion said to have occurred in Homs this afternoon appears to bear out those reservations, as does this incident, which the opposition claim shows a gathering of civilians coming under fire in Aleppo.
Most of the evidence, though, seems to point to a fragile peace. With tanks still encircling main centers of protest and army snipers on the rooftops, it is hardly a return to normality. But at least for many, for a while, there has been an opportunity to bury their dead with less fear of becoming victims themselves.
JEFFREY BROWN: On the diplomatic front, Russia and China joined the U.S. in urging a speedy dispatch of U.N. observers to monitor the cease-fire on both sides.
And, in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Assad government must comply with all elements of the peace plan, not just the cease-fire.
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: The regime’s troops and tanks have not pulled back from population centers. And it remains to be seen if the regime will keep its pledge to permit peaceful demonstrations, open access for humanitarian aid and journalists, and begin a political transition.
The Annan plan is not a menu of options. It is a set of obligations. The burden of fully and visibly meeting all of these obligations continues to rest with the regime. They cannot pick and choose.