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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora