New York: Following international pressure to end his violent crackdown, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Mr Assad has told UN chief Ban Ki-moon that military operations against protesters have “stopped”. According to UN spokesman Farhan Haq, Assad was responding to a demand from Mr Ban during a phone call that “all military operations and mass arrests must cease immediately.
Activists say more than 20 people were killed on Wednesday alone.
Nearly 2,000 people are believed to have been killed and tens of thousands have been arrested since the crackdown began in March.
In the latest assault, Syrian forces fired on parts of the port city of Latakia, killing dozens and driving some 5,000 Palestinian refugees from their camps.
“The secretary general expressed alarm at the latest reports of continued widespread violations of human rights and excessive use of force by Syrian security forces against civilians across Syria,” the UN statement said.
Mr Ban “emphasized that all military operations and mass arrests must cease immediately. President Assad said that the military and police operations had stopped,” it added.
The UN chief called on Damascus to introduce “credible” reforms and offer full co-operation to a UN human rights investigation into the crackdown.
The UN said Mr Assad listed the reforms he planned to take, which included constitutional change and elections, while also agreeing to receive a UN humanitarian mission.
The Syrian authorities have staged highly-publicised troop withdrawals from three trouble-spots in the past couple of weeks – first the central city of Hama, then Deir al-Zour in the east, and now the Ramel district of Latakia on the western coast.
But troops and tanks were pulled out only after they had done the job of restoring control by force, and there are many other instruments of security left behind to maintain the government’s grip, he says.