News / Middle East

UN Observers Pull Out of Syria

Members of the United Nations observers mission in Syria, who have left their bases in the province of Homs in Central Syria, return to their hotel in Damascus on August 20, 2012.
Members of the United Nations observers mission in Syria, who have left their bases in the province of Homs in Central Syria, return to their hotel in Damascus on August 20, 2012.
Edward Yeranian
CAIRO — Members of the United Nations observer mission wound down their operation in Damascus Monday, packing their bags and leaving Syria for Lebanon. A few observers will remain until week's end. A skeletal crew is due to stay behind and maintain a political liaison office.

With conflict raging in Syria, the United Nations Security Council decided to end the U.N. mission when its mandate expired on Sunday.

The mission, which at its height included 300 international observers, was originally intended to monitor a cease-fire that went into effect last April but failed to take hold.

That cease-fire, part of former U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan, was marred by so much violence that monitors could not effectively do their work safely.

Timor Goksel, a former spokesman of the U.N.'s peacekeeping mission in neighboring Lebanon, said that the observers intended to keep the international community informed of developments on the ground and were not there to broker an end to the conflict.

"If anyone had hoped that they would stop the war, that was wrong," Goksel said. "They were there as the eyes and ears of the international community [which] doesn't really know what is going on there and they still don't know what's going on there. So, now, they're removing that."

Norwegian Gen. Robert Mood, the former commander of the mission, suspended most of the group's activities in June, after violence picked up.

No members of the mission were seriously hurt, although several teams had their vehicles damaged in bomb attacks.

New peace push

Annan resigned recently, saying that he was unable to fulfill his mission. The U.N. has turned to veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi to take his place.

Goksel, who now teaches at American University of Beirut, says that Brahimi has successfully mediated diplomatic solutions to other thorny conflicts, like the civil war in Lebanon, which ended in 1990.

"When he came to Lebanon we were already at the end of [the] conflict," Goksel said. "People were tired. The time was ripe for a solution. I don't know if the time is ripe in Syria now for a solution, but Lakhdar Brahimi knows the situation quite well. He's not a newcomer in this job. If anyone can handle it, he can.”

Brahimi told a French television station in an interview Monday that the conflict in Syria is a “civil war” and that it must be treated as such.

Syrian opposition leaders criticized Brahimi over the weekend for refusing to call for the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Violence continues

Witnesses say Syrian government forces stepped up their shelling of the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Madhamiya Monday. Opposition activists also reported heavy shelling in and around the cities of Daraa, Deir Ezzor, Homs and Aleppo.

Arab satellite channels showed amateur video of rebel Free Syrian Army fighters in several locales vowing to unite their forces under a larger central command structure.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
August 22, 2012 11:47 AM
Some of western members of the United Nations observer were obviously unfair whey they were doing their work in Syria. Right now, Obama mentioned red line - "using chemical weapons". It shows Obama is planning to make same excuses (making or using chemical weapons or nuclear weapons) to attack another country. They have used these kind of excuses for many times in the history. They used chemical weapons in Vienam war and Korean war. They used nuclear weapons in Japan(automic bomb) and Iraq(Depleted uranium bombs). All these have been proved already.
.

by: Anonymous
August 21, 2012 7:19 PM
I BLAME THIS ENTIRE MESS ON THE WORLD!
How on earth can the world not do anything??? My god, I am disgusted. If Assad was stopped there would be no more killing! We all know this... But yet nothing is happening. It is like every country is afraid it may spiral. Someone needs to take the lead and show they value human lives.

by: Tyler from: Phoenix USA
August 20, 2012 1:23 PM
You do realize every power structure uses death as a tool.

by: Byron from: Ohio, USA
August 20, 2012 11:33 AM
The miracle is that none of them were killed or wounded by Assad's murder squads. As for the observer mission, it never had a chance.

by: Michael from: USA
August 20, 2012 9:52 AM
The secular path to peace must be shocked out of it's existence, in favor of a Christian path because Christianity is a blend of antiquity and has a belief in upholding promises

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs