The UN has made a final demand for Syria to halt attacks on civilians ahead of a Tuesday deadline to withdraw troops and heavy guns from its cities even as the US said there were no signs that the government is sticking to the peace plan.
The demand comes as tension escalated with neighbouring Turkey after shots across the border wounded two Syrians and a Turkish translator near a refugee camp. A television cameraman was also shot dead on the Lebanon-Syria border.
“[Ban Ki-moon] The secretary general reiterates his demand that the government of Syria immediately cease all military actions against civilians and fulfil all of its commitments made through joint special envoy Kofi Annan,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.
Syria had accepted Annan’s plan for troops and weapons to be withdrawn from cities by April 10, but made a last-minute demand that opposition groups guarantee that they would lay down their arms. The plan had called for complete end to fighting 48 hours later.
Ban spoke on Monday with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu “who conveyed his authorities’ utmost concern over the recent developments, including cross-border fire which resulted in deaths and injuries on Turkish territory,” said Nesirky.
Turkey has condemned the shooting incident at the refugee camp and the US said Syria has shown no sign so far that it is sticking to the Annan plan.
“We certainly have seen no sign yet of the Assad regime abiding by its commitments, which is obviously quite unfortunate,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
“The international community, including, obviously, the United States, is unanimous in its support for special envoy Kofi Annan’s mission to bring an end to the violence and begin a Syrian-led political process toward democracy,” Carney said.
“Syrian citizens who flee the violence of the Syrian regime are under Turkey’s full guarantee. It’s natural that we will take necessary precautions if such incidents occur again,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
A Turkish foreign ministry official said the Syrian charge d’affaires in Ankara has been summoned to the ministry following the incident.
Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Antakya in southern Turkey, said the incident signifies “a remarkable escalation in tensions on this already tense cross-border area”.
The incident occurred as reports indicated that Syrian government forces were trying to prevent refugees from entering Turkey.
Thousands of Syrians are sheltering in eight refugee camps set up in Turkey’s three provinces bordering Syria, while others have crossed into Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
Meanwhile, Walid Muallem, the Syrian foreign minister, has travelled to Moscow where he is expected to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday.
Ally Russia, along with Beijing, has blocked two UN Security Council draft resolutions condemning Damascus for its bloody crackdown, but they have publically backed the Annan’s peace plan.
Last week, Assad accepted the ceasefire agreement, which also called for the government and opposition fighters to lay down their arms by 6am local time on Thursday.
For his part, Annan urged Syria’s government to fully implement its commitment to the ceasefire, and condemned “a surge in violence and atrocities” that is occurring there.
The truce is meant to pave the way for negotiations between the government and the opposition over Syria’s political future.
However, activists say Syrian troops are continuing their assault on flashpoint regions.
Fresh fighting killed another 48 people on Monday, including 12 soldiers, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
At least 35 civilians were killed in regime forces’ shelling of the village of Latamna, in the central Hama province, according to the London-based group.
“The regime had thought that it would control all areas (of rebels by April 10). As this is not happening, it is procrastinating to gain time,” said the Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman.
“If the Annan plan does not work, no other plan would, and Syria would plunge into a civil war,” he told AFP news agency.