News / Middle East

    UN to Open Liaison Office in Syria

    France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud, the current Security Council president, answers reporters' questions at the United Nations  after a closed meeting of the Security Council on Syria,  August 16, 2012.
    France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud, the current Security Council president, answers reporters' questions at the United Nations after a closed meeting of the Security Council on Syria, August 16, 2012.
    Peter Fedynsky
    NEW YORK — The United Nations Supervison mission in Syria, or UNSMIS, will end on Sunday.  French Ambassador Gerard Araud, the current president of the Security Council, says members agreed not to renew the UNSMIS mandate.  The U.N. will instead open a liaison office in Damascus.  
     
    The U.N. Security Council has decided not to renew the UNSMIS mandate.  Ambassador Gerard Araud says there was a general feeling among Council members that the conditions to continue UNSMIS were not fulfilled.  He says violence in Syria has not been significantly reduced and the Syrian government has not stopped use of heavy weapons.

    “Yes, UNSMIS will fade out, but there will be - what is the most important - there will be a U.N. presence and we do hope, a useful U.N. presence,” said the ambassador.

    The UNSMIS 90-day mandate began in April.  It authorized a 300-member observer mission to monitor cessation of violence in Syria by all parties and to support implementation of the U.N. Syrian envoy’s six-point peace plan.

    Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin suggested other Security Council members did not do enough to halt the violence.

    “We believe that those members of the Council who insisted that UNSMIS can continue, did not really show commitment to ending hostilities and to working toward a political settlement in Syria,” said Churkin.

    • A Free Syrian Army fighter observes the area during clashes in Aleppo, August 16, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter carries the body of a fellow fighter in Aleppo, August 16, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter reads the Quran before clashes in Aleppo, August 16, 2012.
    • A man searches among houses that were destroyed during a recent Syrian Air Force air strike in Azaz, August 15, 2012.
    • Syrians evacuate a wounded man from under the rubble after an air strike destroyed at least ten houses in Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, August 15, 2012.
    • Injured Syrian women arrive at a field hospital after an air strike hit their homes in the town of Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, August 15, 2012.
    • A Syrian man carries an injured child to a field hospital after an air strike hit homes in Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, August 15, 2012.
    • Wounded Syrians arrive at a field hospital after an air strike hit their homes in Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, August 15, 2012.
    • Syrians wounded in an air strike that hit their homes evacuate a field hospital after a second air strike in Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, August 15, 2012.
    • Wounded Syrians evacuate a field hospital after a second air strike in Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, August 15, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter passes an AK-47 rifle to his fellow fighter in Aleppo, August 14, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter reacts after hearing news that his commander had been killed by tank shell in Aleppo, August 14, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter fires his sniper rifle from a house in Aleppo, August 14, 2012.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters sit behind a barricade on a street in Aleppo, August 13, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter observes the area with a pair of binoculars in Aleppo, August 13, 2012.

    Western members of the Security Council offered three resolutions to apply sanctions to pressure the Syrian government to end fighting.  Russia and China vetoed the measures.

    The assistant secretary general for U.N. peacekeeping operations, Edmond Mulet, says the size of the organization’s Damascus liaison office has yet to be determined.  He noted, however, it will not be large - about 20 to 30 people.  The office is to deal with civil affairs, human rights and humanitarian access.

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