Syria Tells UN Envoy Kofi Annan That Opposition Must Give Up Weapons First
March 19, 2012 • 9:00AM

Syria has told UN envoy Kofi Annan in a letter obtained Saturday by The Associated Press that it is "keen to end violence," but insists that armed opposition groups give up their weapons first.

The Syrian letter asks Annan, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy, to provide guarantees to the Syrian government that the armed groups will cease all armed aggressions and give up their weapons to the dedicated authorities in exchange for a full pardon. The Syrians said they want the guarantees because of the lessons they learned dealing with Arab League monitors.

The Syrians said that when the Arab monitors were in the country and they withdrew all their forces from cities and other urban areas, the armed groups used their weapons and attacked the population as well as the public order police and destroyed the Syrian economy.

The letter, first reported by the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar, also demanded from Annan that neighboring countries control the flow of arms through their borders, and that countries that have called publicly for weapons and financing for armed opposition groups stop doing so.

When Annan provides all these guarantees, the Syrian government can discuss with him the idea of putting in place a neutral monitoring system, the letter said.

As far as Annan's request for a two-hour temporary humanitarian ceasefire, Syria said this would relate to the local situation evaluated by the Syrian party, in consultation with the Syrian Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross and its foreign ministry.

Syria insisted that there have been no random arrests during the uprising and that a large number of prisoners with blood on their hands or criminal records have been released. The government said a decree has been signed pardoning all those who surrender weapons.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has visited the central prison in Damascus and the government said it is ready to organize another visit to the central prison of Aleppo.

In response to Annan's request for unhindered media access, the government said we agree to allow entry for the media with freedom of movement according to Syrian laws and regulations.