Last updated: 13 April, 2012

Annan calls for humanitarian access in Syria

Syria must allow humanitarian access to aid those in need after 13 months of deadly violence, a spokesman for international peace mediator Kofi Annan said on Friday.

“Mr Annan is aware that we don’t have a perfect situation in the country at the moment,” his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said on day two of a shaky ceasefire introduced under a peace plan drawn up by Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria.

“There are detainees that need to be released,” Fawzi said, and “humanitarian access” was needed.

Fawzi said about one million people require humanitarian aid after a bloody crackdown by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad on protesters that activists say has cost over 10,000 lives since March last year.

The spokesman told AFP he misspoke in Geneva earlier Friday when he said “humanitarian corridors” needed to be opened and that he meant humanitarian access.

As well as the release of detainees and the provision of humanitarian access, the six-point peace plan also asks for freedom of movement for journalists.

Damascus has told Annan’s team that they have already begun granting visas to media, Fawzi said.

“We have been receiving assurances from the government that they are indeed granting numbers of visas to numbers of journalists,” said the spokesman.

“The last letter we received this morning listed 53 journalists who had been given visas by the Syrian authorities.

“A previous letter we received three or four days ago listed 21 organisations that had been granted entry visas.”

Fawzi said he expected a UN Security Council resolution on Friday that would authorise the deployment of an advance observer mission made up of 10 to 12 people.

It follows the dispatch of an assessment team headed by Norwegian general Robert Mood to Damascus last week to discuss the technical aspects of any potential observer mission.

Mood has returned to Norway and will not head up the advance mission, Fawzi added.

If the ceasefire holds, “then the (Security) Council could authorise a full-fledged observer mission with all the capacity needed to support on the ground the implementation of the six-point plan,” the spokesman said.

He added that there were round-the-clock efforts to find the necessary number of troops — likely to be up to 250 — in the event of a full observer mission being approved.

Fawzi said he was not able to list the potential countries involved, but that they had been discussed with the authorities in Damascus during last week’s assessment.

“They could come from Asia, Africa, from Latin America, South America,” he said.

In Oslo, Mood said the ceasefire appeared to be largely holding.

“The fact that one is seeing today a near total cessation of combat operations is a sign that parties are indeed ready to choose a course” other than violence, he said, although voicing concern about reports of unrest in Homs and near the border with Turkey.

“If the parties continue to observe the ceasefire, it is extremely important to open the way as soon as possible to massive humanitarian aid,” Mood said, adding that those in need of aid were short of food, water and basic essentials.

“But there is also a need for reconstruction. Destruction in some towns is so widespread that schools, hospitals and public institutions are totally destroyed and must be rebuilt,” he said.