UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – The UN Security Council on Saturday, April 21, unanimously passed a resolution allowing a 300-strong ceasefire monitoring mission in Syria despite the strong doubts of many Western nations.
Under UN resolution 2043, the unarmed military observers will be sent for an initial period of 90 days if UN leader Ban Ki-moon decides it is safe for them to go.
The council has already approved an advanced mission, but several western envoys stressed the dangers of sending unarmed monitors to Syria where violence has not halted since a cessation of hostilities started on April 12.
The UN says well over 9,000 people have been killed in Syria in the past 13 months of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Many activists say however that the figure is well over 11,000.
“It is an unprecedented step to deploy unarmed UN personnel into such a dangerous environment. It is fraught with risk,” said Britain’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.
“The mission will fail in its task if the regime continues to violate its commitments and obstruct the work of the mission,” he told the council.
“The deployment of the first 10 observers in Syria has not changed the murderous behavior of the regime,” said France’s UN ambassador Gerard Araud. President Bashar al-Assad had so far shown “contempt” for the UN council and UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
However Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose country played a leading role in drawing up the resolution, told the council: “This resolution is of fundamental importance to push forward the process of the peaceful settlement in Syria.”
The United States and Britain decided against co-sponsoring the resolution because of their doubts about the mission’s future. Among European powers, France and Germany decided to co-sponsor the resolution with Russia to show backing for the peace plan of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
The observer operation will be officially known as the UN Supervisory Mission in Syria, UNSMIS. Civilian experts will also go to Syria to advise on political and public security developments.
The resolution gets tougher on Assad by calling on him to complete the withdrawal of troops and weapons from population centers. The previous resolution allowing the advanced party only spoke of beginning the withdrawal.
There is no threat of sanctions, but the council says it will assess the implementation of the mission resolution and “consider further steps as appropriate.”
The resolution says Syria must ensure “unhindered deployment” of the observers, and give “full, unimpeded freedom of movement and access” including to communicate freely with individuals “without retaliation against the individuals.”
Syria has so far refused to let the UN mission use their own helicopters, but the resolution stressed the need for Damascus to allow “the independent use of air assets” by UNSMIS.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon welcomed the resolution, and said deployments would “proceed expeditiously, subject to his assessment of developments on the ground,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.
“The secretary general calls upon the government of Syria and other parties swiftly to create the conditions necessary for the deployment of the mission.
“He stresses the need for the government of Syria to end all violence and human rights violations, and in particular to stop the use of heavy weapons and to withdraw such weapons and armed units from population centers,” added the spokesman. – Agence France-Presse