Syria’s government has promised that its armed forces would stop shooting and withdraw from population centers by April 10, the special emissary attempting to end the violent year-old uprising in Syria told the United Nations Security Council on Monday.
The special emissary, Kofi Annan, also told the Security Council that his team had held constructive talks with anti-government forces in the Syria conflict as part of an attempt to gain their adherence to his cease-fire plan. It was widely expected that rebels would wait for the Syria government’s forces to stop shooting before they would agree to reciprocate.
It was unclear whether the latest diplomatic scrambling represented a meaningful breakthrough in efforts to halt the Syria conflict, which has left more than 9,000 people dead since President Bashar al-Assad moved to crush political opposition inspired by the Arab Spring movement in March 2011.
The Syrian government’s commitment came a day after a large gathering of nations, including many Arab nations and the United States, moved closer to a direct intervention in the conflict by agreeing to provide equipment and money to the array of rebel forces seeking to end President Assad’s grip on power. The “Friends of Syria” conference in Turkey was assailed by Mr. Assad’s government as an “enemies of Syria” plot, intended to undermine Mr. Annan’s effort, and as the equivalent of an act of war on Syria.
Mr. Annan, the former secretary general appointed by the United Nations and Arab League to seek a negotiated end to the uprising in Syria, spoke to the Security Council privately over a videolink from Geneva. The American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, who is the current president of the Security Council, briefed reporters afterward on Mr. Annan’s discussions.
She said Mr. Annan had urged the Syrian government to immediately begin implementing his plan — as it had previously agreed to do — and that the Syrian government had pledged to adhere to the cease-fire and troop pullback provisions of Mr. Annan’s plan by April 10.
“That commitment was provided by the Syrian authorities,” Ms. Rice told reporters.
Speaking as the representative of the United States, however, she expressed skepticism that the Syrian government would honor such a pledge.
“We have seen promises made and promises broken,” she said. “We have seen commitments to end violence followed by massive intensification of violence. The proof is in the actions, not the words.”
She also said that United Nations peacekeeping arm would begin planning for how to monitor a cease-fire in Syria, even though many necessary elements of such a monitoring — most notably the Syrian government’s agreement — were not resolved.
Asked how the United Nations could ensure compliance with Mr. Annan’s plan between now and April 10, she responded: “You know the issue. That hasn’t been permitted because of the circumstances.”
Mr. Annan’s cease-fire proposal received a large credibility boost last month when it was unanimously endorsed by the Security Council, including Russia and China, longtime defenders of Mr. Assad that thwarted previous efforts by the council to stop the bloodshed in the Syria conflict.
The current plan by Mr. Annan calls for a U.N.-supervised ceasefire by all parties, withdrawal of soldiers and heavy weapons from cities, delivery of humanitarian aid, release of arbitrarily detained people, freedom of movement for journalists and the right to peacefully demonstrate and assemble.