6 Apr 2012

Annan sets deadline for end to conflict in Syria

9:00 pm on 6 April 2012

Syria is facing pressure from all sides at the United Nations after the UN-Arab League envoy set a precise deadline for an end to the conflict with clear backing from Russia, China and the rest of the Security Council.

Kofi Annan told the 193-nation General Assembly on Thursday he was urging the government and the opposition commanders to issue clear instructions to their forces to cease hostilities on 12 April.

He says this includes stopping sexual abuse, torture, executions, abductions, destruction of homes, forced displacement and other abuses, including on children, Reuters reports.

Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, however, said the peace plan does not refer to the withdrawal of police forces, which he says are there to protect the civilians.

He accused foreign countries which support the Syrian opposition of jeopardising a possible ceasefire.

The ambassador says Syria's army will withdraw troops and heavy weapons from population centres by Tuesday, but says Mr Annan should secure written guarantees from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey that they back the peace plan.

Opposition activists say the army and police have been responsible for killing civilians in the government's year-long attempt to stamp out pro-democracy demonstrations.

The UN Security Council has warned Damascus of further steps if it did not meet the deadline, which the Syrians have accepted.

More flee to Turkey

At least 2800 Syrians have fled across the border to Turkey from the region of Idlib - more than double the highest previous one-day total.

The refugees say the Syrian army is destroying buildings in villages to make people move out.

Villagers on the Turkish side said they could hear the sounds of heavy fighting in Syria throughout Thursday.