News

UN Mission Chief in Syria Cautiously Optimistic

Leader of the UN Supervision Mission to Syria (UNSMIS) Norwegian Major-General Robert Mood and another member of the group meet with a member of the Free Syrian Army in Marat al-Numan near the northern Syrian province of Idlib May 4, 2012.
Leader of the UN Supervision Mission to Syria (UNSMIS) Norwegian Major-General Robert Mood and another member of the group meet with a member of the Free Syrian Army in Marat al-Numan near the northern Syrian province of Idlib May 4, 2012.
Elizabeth Arrott

The U.N. mission in Syria is a small contingent trying to monitor a very large conflict.  Violence continues in Homs, Hama, Damascus and elsewhere despite a cease-fire agreed to by the government and the opposition last month. (Hear the full interview here.)

It's been termed by some an impossible mission, but U.N. mission leader General Robert Mood says his team has already seen "very specific, concrete steps on the ground."

"We see that we have a calming effect on the situation," said Mood.  "So we have seen in these places a significant reduction in shelling. We have seen a significant reduction in shooting."

In the week since the mission got underway, both sides, he says, have pulled back from positions on monitors' advice.  But with just a few dozen unarmed observers to implement the U.N.-brokered peace plan, Mood is aware the situation can quickly regress.

"We are working on a specific plan where you can go back to the specific site where you had an engagement, where you gave advice and to verify that the advice, when it was taken, is respected also 12 hours or 24 hours or two days later," Mood added.

The Norwegian general is trying to monitor the end of hostilities even as more weapons are being added to the mix. The opposition in exile argues that the military wing of the uprising needs more firepower to counter a government supply still fed by Russia.  Mood acknowledges there is fragmentation.

"But what I can tell you from my engagement is that whomever I meet, they tell me that they want to move on the basis of [U.N.-Arab League envoy] Kofi Annan's Six Point Plan, and that includes the Free Syrian Army locally, and that includes Local Coordination Committees. I am fully aware that there are others with a different agenda, that have other ideas, but I have yet to see a credible alternative to Kofi Annan's Six Point Plan. So one way to put it is that it's, for now, the only game in town," Mood explained.

But there's a wild card recently thrown into that game, the emergence of jihadist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, claiming responsibility for various attacks.  The Syrian government has long blamed foreign terrorists for what started as a popular uprising.  Mood says he cannot confirm such groups are on the ground, but has heard reports of foreign militants from various sources. The threat, he says, provides for a rare moment of common ground between the government and its opponents.

"I've also received the message from almost the same players across the spectrum that they don't want to see the future of Syria - a very proud, warm, hospitable people - being dictated by groups from the outside having different agendas," Mood said.

While the chasm between a decades-long autocratic government and an increasingly militarized opposition remains huge, Mood, who served in a previous U.N. mission in the region, sees reason for hope.

"I get a sense that all the players are eager to see this move forward on the basis of political solutions because they see that the alternative - more violence, more kids being killed, more trouble for families in these hot spots - is a very bad alternative," Mood noted.

But he prefaces the statement by saying the willingness should not be overestimated.  It is, he says, "too early to judge."

Join the conversation on our social journalism site -
Middle East Voices
. Follow our Middle East reports on
Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Oliver
May 06, 2012 10:45 AM
“What a fool believes he sees, No wise man has the power to reason away, What seems to be Is always better than nothing And nothing at all, Keeps sending him somewhere back in her long ago,Where he can still believe there's a place in her life, Someday, somewhere, she will return”- The Doobie Brothers. Bashar Assad and his associates are fools to believe they can stay in Syria and the U.N. are fools to continue to support Assad and not have the courage to tell him it is time to go.

by: Michael
May 06, 2012 5:12 AM
The weapon supply refers to foreign terrorists inside Syria where the basic values of the popular uprising might be welcoming of firepower, but the basis for interaction between the two demonstrates that a pressing need for political change calls for violent contact one way or the other

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs