x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Syria 'is breaking ceasefire promise'

Satellite images prove Syria has failed to withdraw all its heavy weapons from populated areas as required by a ceasefire deal.

GENEVA // Satellite images prove Syria has failed to withdraw all its heavy weapons from populated areas as required by a ceasefire deal, international envoy Kofi Annan’s spokesman said yesterday.

Mr Annan called on the Syrian government to fully implement its commitments under the truce, Ahmad Fawzi said.

“This means withdrawal of all heavy armoury from population centres 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,” Mr Fawzi said.

Mr Annan also knows that United Nations ceasefire monitors are met with brief lulls of violence when they enter conflict areas such as Homs and Hama, and that people who speak to the observers appear to be in danger afterwards.

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

He spoke as UN observers visited Hama yesterday, a day after a human-rights group said regime forces killed 31 people in the flashpoint central city.

Among the areas they visited was Arbaeen, “which suffered a massacre yesterday at the hands of regime troops,” activist Abu Ghazi Al Hamwi said.

According to the Damascus-based Syrian League for Human Rights, nine activists were “summarily executed” by regime forces in Hama on Monday, a day after they met UN observers on a previous visit to the city.

“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,” Mr Fawzi said. “With up to 300, we will be able to monitor more cities than two to three at a time.”

Mr Annan said yesterday 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.

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

Mr Annan 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.

Meanwhile, rebels seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Al Assad killed three regime officers in separate attacks around Damascus, activists and state media said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an intelligence officer was shot dead in the northeastern Barzeh neighbourhood of the capital.

The state news service said "terrorists" shot to death a retired lieutenant colonel and his brother, a chief warrant officer, in an area south-west of the capital.

* Reporting by the Associated Press and Bloomberg