UNITED NATIONS - The UN Security Council unanimously on Saturday adopted a resolution co-sponsored by Pakistan that authorises an initial deployment of up to 300 unarmed military observers to Syria for three months to monitor a fragile week-old ceasefire in a 13-month old conflict.
The Russia-European drafted resolution said that deployment of the U.N. observer mission, which will be called UNSMIS, will be “subject to assessment by the Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) of relevant developments on the ground, including the cessation of violence.” Saturday’s resolution also noted that the cessation of violence by the government and opposition is “clearly incomplete”.
It authorises the UN mission for an initial 90 days to monitor the cessation of violence and monitor and support implementation of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan, including a cease-fire that he negotiated, and deployment of a U.N. observer force to quell the bloodletting that has killed an estimated 9,000 people over the last 13 months and driven half a million from their homes. Speaking after the adoption of the resolution, Pakistan’s acting Permanent Representative, Ambassador Raza Bashir Tarar, said the move was a “significant step” towards bringing peace in Syria.
He appealed to all sides in Syria to end violence and cooperate with the UN observers for the consolidation of ceasefire to pave the way for a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis. At the same time, the Pakistani envoy underscored the need for respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Syria.
Afp adds: A team of United Nations observers monitoring a shaky ceasefire visited the central Syrian province of Homs on Saturday, state news agency SANA reported.
“A team of international observers visited the province of Homs and met the governor,” SANA said.
The city of Homs, the provincial capital, has been at the forefront of an anti-regime uprising and borne the brunt of artillery attacks of a government campaign to crush armed opponents.
Earlier on Saturday, the opposition Syrian National Council appealed the observers, who arrived last weekend, to go immediately to the city “to try to stop the crimes of the regime.” It claimed that Bayyada and another neighbourhood, Khaldiyeh, “is the target of barbaric shelling and an inhumane embargo.”
But while Homs has been a regular target of bombing, an activist there, Khaled Tellawi, told AFP in Beirut the bombing had stopped and that “the area was calm” on Saturday, possibly indicating an imminent visit by observers.
Monitors say more than 200 people have been killed in Syria since a shaky ceasefire to which the government and rebels committed themselves went into effect on April 12.
Russia’s UN ambassador called for a “unanimous vote” on the text his country took a leading role in drawing up. But US ambassador Susan Rice indicated that a vote is not certain as western governments decide whether the conditions for the force are strong enough. The agreement comes after thousands of Syrians took part in protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, testing a shaky UN ceasefire, as state media said 18 security personnel were killed in attacks.
The protests took place in Daraa, the Damascus region, in Homs and Hama in central Syria, Idlib in the northwest, Aleppo in the north, Deir Ezzor in the northeast and in Latakia on the Mediterranean coast, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Painstaking talks brought rival Russian and European resolutions into a single draft text. The final proposal would give UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon the task of making an “assessment” on whether it was safe enough to send the unarmed military observers and civilian experts.
The council has approved an advanced mission of 30 observers and seven are already in Syria where a 13-month old uprising against Assad has left well over 9,000 dead, according to a UN toll. Ban asked this week for the expanded force to be set up even though he said Assad has not kept commitments to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from Syrian cities.
Sending the full 300 monitors requires a new resolution by the 15 member council which is to meet at 11:00 am (1500 GMT) on Saturday.Friday’s talks produced a text that “council members will send back to their capitals for instructions,” Rice said, but added that a vote was not certain. “It is possible that not everybody will have instructions at that point, it is possible that there will not be an agreed text at that point. We’ll see and we’ll regroup accordingly,” she told reporters. Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin was more upbeat. “We have a text and I hope there’s going to be a unanimous vote tomorrow,” he said. British envoy Mark Lyall Grant said the council members “are quite close to an agreement.”
Under the proposed resolution, the full mission would have an initial three month mandate to monitor the cessation of hostilities which started on April 12. Halting hostilities was part of a six-point plan agreed by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and Assad.
More than 130 people have been killed since the ceasefire started however and Ban pointedly told the council this week that Assad had not kept a commitment to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from population centers. European nations had wanted the threat of sanctions to be included in the resolution if Assad did not keep the commitments. But the final draft text talks only of backing the resolution with “further steps as appropriate.”