Syria promises ceasefireAgence France-Presse . Damascus+
Syria announced on Wednesday that it would cease military operations against rebel fighters from Thursday, the day set by peace envoy Kofi Adnnan as the deadline for a halt to 13 months of bloodshed.
Annan said he had received a written pledge from Damascus to halt military operations from dawn on Thursday, despite renewed assaults on protest hubs on Wednesday that killed 11 civilians, according to monitors.
‘It has been decided to stop these (military) operations from Thursday morning,’ state television quoted a defence ministry official it did not identify as saying.
The decision was taken after regime forces ‘completed successful operations in combating the criminal acts of the armed terrorist groups and enforced the state’s rule over its territory,’ the official added.
Armed forces will ‘remain on standby to retaliate against any attack by the armed terrorist groups against civilians, the security services, armed forces, or private or public property,’ the official said.
Annan received a letter from foreign minister Walid Muallem setting out the undertaking in writing, his spokesman said.
Damascus promised to ‘cease all military fighting throughout Syrian territory as of 6:00am today, while reserving the right to respond proportionately to any attacks carried out by armed terrorist groups against civilians, government forces or public and private property’.’
The UN and Arab League envoy had expressed cautious optimism that his peace plan could still be salvaged, despite the renewed bloodshed on Wednesday.
Regime forces killed at least 11 civilians in bombardments of rebel neighbourhoods of the flashpoint central city of Homs and other protest hubs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
At least seven civilians were killed in Homs on Tuesday, the deadline for Assad to withdraw his troops and weapons from population centres under the peace plan it agreed with Annan.
On the northern border, shots fired by Syrian forces struck a refugee camp inside Turkey, Turkish media reported, two days after shooting from Syria wounded four Syrians and two Turks on Turkish soil.
Speaking in Tehran, Annan said he expected the situation to be ‘much improved’ by Thursday’s ceasefire deadline if both sides respected his six-point peace plan.
‘If everyone respects, I think by six o’clock on Thursday the 12th... we a should see a much improved situation on the ground,’ he said.
Damascus had given ‘further clarifications’ over how it would implement its side of the plan, he added.
‘What they mean and want is an assurance that the other forces, the opposition forces, would also stop the fighting so that we could see cessation of all the violence,’ he said.
Annan said his team has ‘had positive answers from them’ and that ‘governments with influence’ had also been approached to ensure all sides respect the ceasefire.
Iran, where Annan was speaking, is Syria’s principal Middle East ally.
Damascus’s sympathisers on the UN Security Council, Beijing and Moscow, also piled pressure on the regime to abide by the peace plan.
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