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Truce under threat: Syrian violence continues as UNSC debates new resolution

Published time: April 13, 2012 08:36
Edited time: April 14, 2012 11:38

Turkish army personnel patrol near the border with Syria in Kilis (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

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A ceasefire in Syria seems to be have been broken after troops clashed with rebels in many parts of the country, reportedly killing five people. The UN Security Council is debating a new resolution to authorize an observer mission in Syria.

­UN Security Council members met behind closed doors Friday to discuss a draft resolution that would allow an observer mission to be dispatched to Syria “as soon as possible,” as requested by Kofi Annan.

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin admitted that “it is crucial for the monitors to be on the ground” in Syria. He said however that more negotiation would be needed over the draft resolution, as the text was longer and more complicated than expected.

An advance team of UN observers is "standing by to board planes and get themselves on the ground as soon as possible," Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said Friday. The team is waiting for a UN Security Council go-ahead, which was expected come later on Friday.

The full UN mission is to include 250 monitors. It will be deployed “if the ceasefire holds and it turns into a genuine cessation of hostilities," Fawzi said.

Despite the fact that the Syrian army put on hold a crackdown on armed rebels, clashes continued on Friday as thousands of protesters took to the streets upon the Syrian National Council’s call for mass rallies. During the day the country saw sporadic outbursts of violence, with the spokesperson for UN envoy Kofi Annan calling the ceasefire "relatively respected."

One confrontation took place on the outskirts of the northwestern village of Khirbel el-Joz, on the border with Turkey, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The group also says the Syrian army deployed tanks to the area before the clash.

The report comes just a day after the UN-brokered ceasefire was implemented as a step towards bringing the government and rebel groups to the negotiating table. The truce remains shaky at best. Damascus complained that it will uphold its part of the bargain, even though the opposition refuses to guarantee that it will do so.

­Cross-border blame game

­Meanwhile Damascus’ spat with Ankara over a cross-border raid by Syrian troops reached a new height on Friday, when the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem accused Turkey of plotting against his country.

Turkey has a strategy to shelter “terrorist groups that enter Syrian territories, attack civilians and destroy the infrastructure,” Muallem said in a letter addressed to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

He said Turkey was harboring terrorist and turning a blind eye to the attacks they launch across the border to “terrorize civilians at the borders and force them to flee into Turkey so as to create a refugees’ crisis and then request human corridors and a buffer zone be implemented.”

The accusations came in response to Turkey accusing Syria of violating its sovereignty by opening fire across the border at a refugee camp. The Monday shootout left two Syrian nationals dead and some two dozen people wounded, including a Turkish aid worker.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened that as a member of NATO Turkey would request military help from other members of the alliance.

There are estimated 24,000 Syrian refugees living in camps in Turkey. Some observers say the camps are used by many armed opposition members to take rest, receive medical treatment and re-arm before returning to Syria to fight against the government.

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