Kofi Annan Says Syria Has Accepted His Plan To End Violence

The Syrian government has accepted U.N.-Arab League envoy Annan's plan to forge peace and end violence in the volatile nation, Annan's spokesman said Tuesday. Annan is urging the Syrian government "to put its commitments into immediate effect." Annan's six-point plan was the cornerstone of a presidential statement endorsed last week by the U.N. Security Council. "Mr. Annan views this as an important initial step," spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said. But Fawzi also stressed that "implementation will be key, not only for the Syrian people, who are caught in the middle of this tragedy, but also for the region and the international community as a whole." Violence has raged in Syria since last March, when the government launched a fierce crackdown against protesters. The United Nations estimates the Syrian conflict has killed more than 9,000 people; opposition activists have put the toll at more than 10,000. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime previously committed to end the violence in the past year, but the crackdown has continued. "As the Syrian government acts on its commitments, Mr. Annan will move urgently to work with all parties to secure implementation of the plan at all levels," Fawzi said. German Ambassador to the U.N. Peter Wittig said the plan "might turn out to be a first step in the right direction, but of course we have to remain cautious. Syria has a history of credibility gaps. It would be useful to learn in due course more about Kofi Annan's assessment of the reaction by the Syrians and to hear him rather sooner than later in the council again." "But let me remind you," he continued: "The PRST, the presidential statement we adopted last week, contains a very clear call on the Syrians to halt the violence, to stop the forward movement, the use of heavy weapons and to start to pull back -- and this we have not seen on the ground. So this will be a litmus test whether they comply" with the six-point plan. "An inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syria people." A commitment "to stop the fighting and achieve urgently an effective United Nations supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilize the country." Ensuring the "timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting." Intensifying "the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons," including people who have been "involved in peaceful political activities." Ensuring "freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a nondiscriminatory visa policy for them." Respecting "freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed." Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general, arrived in China on Tuesday to rally support for the plan. His visit comes after a stop in Russia. Both countries have stymied U.N. Security Council attempts to take tough action again the Syrian regime. During his two-day trip to China, Annan is meeting with Foreign Ministry officials, China's state-run Xinhua news agency said. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China supports Annan's mediation efforts and hopes to discuss political solutions for the Syrian crisis, according to Xinhua. "We've had a very good discussion about the situation in Syria. They have offered me their full support," Annan said. Both China and Russia have said they want the violence to stop but argue that draft resolutions by Security Council peers were not evenhanded. Both countries have major trade ties with Syria, but have said they are not trying to protect a regime. Annan has said the ongoing crisis in Syria cannot be allowed to "drag on indefinitely," but resisted setting any sort of timetable. The United Nations says there are two missions in Damascus dealing with the crisis. One is a "team of experts that is discussing ways to implement" the plan. Another is a team "assessing the humanitarian needs in the country." That team includes the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.