The Syrian government has told the international mediator Kofi Annan that it had begun withdrawing its troops from three cities, said the spokesman for the UN and the Arab League envoy on Thursday. "They said (the process started in) three cities, Deraa, Idlib and Zabadani," said Ahmad Fawzi during a press conference in Geneva.
Mr. Fawzi further stated that the UN member states were asked to provide troops as part of a mission of maintaining a cease-fire in Syria. An exploratory mission sent by Annan is expected Thursday in Damascus to discuss the deployment of this mission, which will be accomplished through a resolution of the UN Security Council.
"What we expect April 10 is that the Syrian government completed the withdrawal of troops" in the population centers, said Mr. Fawzi. And from that time, within a period of 48 hours, there will be a total cessation of all forms of violence by all parties, including the Syrian government and Syrian opposition. "
Moreover, the spokesman said Mr. Annan would travel to Tehran on April 11, without giving further details.
Mr. Annan will address today by a video link the UN General Assembly in New York to inform it about"the situation in Syria and the progress of his mission."
The Annan plan calls for the cessation of all forms of violence by all parties under UN supervision, the provision of humanitarian aid and the release of detainees.
The French foreign minister Alain Juppe said he was somewhat optimistic about the implementation of this plan by Damascus. Skepticism expressed a few days ago by the United States concerning the will of the Syrian regime to fulfill its promises.
The Syrian regime remains bolstered by the support of its ally Russia. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday launched a new warning against Western "threats and ultimatums" against Syria. "Russia could approve a document of the UN Security Council on Syria if it contributes to the implementation of the Annan plan," Lavrov said at a press conference in Bishkek. "The Syrian government has considered these proposals and has begun to implement them, and now it is very important not to undermine this process by ultimatums and threats," he said. "There are sides that are unfortunately trying to do so," he said.
But despite, the regime's announcement that military withdrawal started in three cities, violence continued elsewhere. Today, government forces stormed the town of Duma, near Damascus. Violent clashes erupted later in several neighborhoods and columns of smoke were visible near a mosque in this city, located about ten miles from Damascus.
In the capital itself, two young men were killed at dawn in the district of Kfar Sousse (southwest) by security forces, according to NGOs. Activists have also claimed that the regime's forces were pursuing several young people in this neighborhood.
According to the activists, three soldiers were killed in an attack against their car in the northern province of Aleppo. The army also raided the village of Kafar Chames in Deraa province, where two soldiers were killed in an attack against their car.
Fleeing violence in their country, 1,043 Syrian refugees entered Turkey in the last 24 hours, said Thursday an official source. The arrival of these refugees brings to 20,900 the number of Syrians currently living in Turkey, the same source added.