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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More