News / Middle East

UN Reviews Future of Syria Mission

Vehicles belonging to United Nations observers are parked in front of a hotel in Damascus July 2, 2012.
Vehicles belonging to United Nations observers are parked in front of a hotel in Damascus July 2, 2012.
Larry Freund
NEW YORK — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the U.N. ceasefire monitoring mission in Syria should be continued but he suggests that its focus should be changed to peacemaking.  
 
The U.N. Security Council authorized the ceasefire monitors in Syria for only 90 days and that mandate expires July 20. When fighting escalated in Syria and the ceasefire between the government and the opposition evaporated, the monitors suspended their operations. Secretary-General Ban, in a report to the Security Council, now suggests several options for the monitors, ranging from ending the mission to enhancing the operation with armed troops.However, Mr. Ban seems most enthusiastic in his report for a shift in the Syrian mission’s structure and focus.
 
The Secretary-General says some military observers could continue their work, but he points to additional options that would support dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition, enhance attention to what he calls the political track and to human rights issues. As he sees it, the mission’s “good offices” would be strengthened to seize opportunities to foster dialogue, calm tensions and promote ceasefires.
 
The U.N. Security Council is expected to meet next week to consider the future of the mission in Syria.
 
Meanwhile, the head of the U.N. operation, Norwegian General Robert Mood, has announced that he is consolidating the Syrian mission, grouping the 300 monitors in regional teams rather than the eight local teams dispersed in various Syrian cities. U.N. spokesperson Eduardo del Buey said it will be up to Mood to decide when it is safe enough for the U.N. observers to resume the functions that were suspended because of the violence.
 
“The Secretary-General, the Joint Special Envoy and General Mood have called on all sides to eliminate violence from their list of activities, to engage in the peaceful resolution of the situation," del Buey said. "Obviously it is very difficult for 300 unarmed observers to be going around the country if they are being attacked and they are being targeted. This is the reason why it was suspended and we will see when General Mood decides that the situation is safe enough for them to resume their functions."
 
The United States and other nations have called for the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Syria, but that action has been blocked by both Russia and China, two of the five permanent council members that can veto resolutions.

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