Assad agrees to Annan’s April 10 ceasefire deadline

Damascus has agreed to an April 10 deadline to partially implement UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan, the former UN secretary general told the Security Council.

­Speaking behind closed doors, Annan implored the fifteen-nation council to back the deadline. If successful, a full ceasefire would come into effect within 48 hours of its implementation.

Annan also told the council that it should seize the opportunity to potentially end the year-long conflict, saying the Syrian government was now on board, a UN diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Annan further asked council members to "begin consideration of deployment of an observer mission with a broad and flexible mandate," a diplomat said.

The plan would entail an end to troop movements towards large urban centers, the scaling back of heavy weapons and an initial troop withdrawal, diplomats told the agency.

Previously, Damascus had said it would not withdraw its troops from towns and cities until “peace and security” were restored.

Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja'afari confirmed the Syrian government had agreed to the deadline for partially implementing Annan’s six-point peace plan. However, he demanded the opposition respond in equal measure.

"The Syrian government is committed but we are expecting Mr. Kofi Annan and some parties in the Security Council also to get the same kind of commitments from the [opposition]. A plan wouldn't be successful unless everybody is committed to it," Al-Jazeera cites him as saying.

Earlier on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said "Ultimatums and artificial deadlines rarely help matters."

While Lavrov agreed to “being friends with both sides in Syria,” he said calls to halt the violence “should be put to all sides of the barricades."

While Russia and China have been criticized for vetoing two previous Security Council resolutions on Syria, Moscow has long accused certain members of the international community of taking sides in the conflict.

Lavrov  said that “promises and intentions to deliver direct military and logistical support to the armed … opposition that were voiced in Istanbul unquestionably contradict the goals of a peaceful settlement to the civil conflict in Syria."

The Russian FM also viewed the Friends of Syria decision to recognize the oppositional Syrian National Council as the "legitimate representative" of all Syrians as counterproductive.

"When decisions are made to call one group the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people, one might jump to the conclusion that the other Syrians … are not legitimate," Lavrov said.

"I think this approach is dangerous and works against the efforts being put forward by Kofi Annan."

During the 70-nation “Friends of Syria” meeting in Istanbul this weekend, several Gulf States in attendance pledged to create a multimillion-dollar fund to finance rebel fighters.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also promised more aid to the Syrian rebels, while her Saudi counterpart said “the arming of the [Syrian] opposition is a duty.”

­Vijay Prashad, the Director of the International Studies program at Trinity College in the US, believes the West is undermining the peace process in Syria by bankrolling the opposition, giving it the feeling that “the ball is in their camp.”

“While Mr. Annan was in Damascus, while he was talking to the government about a ceasefire, which is to begin on April 10 and then, finally, on April 12, at that same time the United States, Great Britain, Qatar and the Saudis have made verbal commitments to … multimillion [dollars in aid] to the opposition,” he told RT.

Now, Prashad continued, the Syrian opposition is beginning to believe that the Libyan experience is going to be their experience. With that in mind, they seem to be very unlikely to follow the course for making any commitments.