The cease-fire that went into effect Thursday appeared to be fraying. There were reports of renewed tank and artillery fire in several areas of the embattled city of Homs, and at least five people were said to have been killed Saturday in the relatively peaceful city of Aleppo when security forces used live ammunition to suppress demonstrators at the funeral of a man killed the previous day.
The Syrian Revolution General Commission, an opposition group, said 17 people had been killed nationwide in the renewed violence, nine of them in the shelling of Homs.
The action by the council followed a contentious round of negotiations that pitted the United States and its European and Arab allies against Russia. Moscow had opposed efforts to include language requiring Syria to empower the monitors with greater freedom of movement and action, saying their mandate needed to be negotiated with the Syrian government.
To secure Russian support, the United States and other key sponsors of the resolution were forced to strip out provisions that would have required Syria to provide unimpeded access throughout the country. Instead, it merely “calls upon” the Syrian government to guarantee “full, unimpeded, and immediate freedom of movement and access” for the U.N. monitors.
‘Under no illusions’
U.S. and European diplomats welcomed the decision to deploy U.N. monitors in Syria but said that they remained skeptical about Syria’s willingness to end its violent repression of anti-government targets.
“We are under no illusions,’’ said Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “Two days of diminished violence after a year of murderous rampage hardly proves that the regime is serious about honoring its commitments. Just today, Syrian forces resumed their brutal shelling of Homs and shot innocent mourners at a funeral in Aleppo.”
Still, the council resolution reinforces special envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan, which calls on both sides to cease fighting and enter political talks. The plan also urges Syria to release political prisoners, guarantees freedom of movement for journalists and humanitarian aid workers, and allows peaceful demonstrations.
Syria’s U.N. envoy, Bashar al-Jaafari, told the council that his government will “spare no effort to guarantee the success” of Annan’s peace plan and that it supports the plan for a U.N. monitoring mission as long as it does not violate Syrian sovereignty. But he said Syria is engaged in negotiations with Annan’s team on the mandate of such a mission. He also claimed that Syrian opposition elements have been responsible for 50 violations of the cease-fire, a claim that was challenged by Rice and other council diplomats.