UN sees need for more Syria observers, aircraft

Arab League ministers call on Bashar al-Assad to let UN observers do their job.

Reuters April 18, 2012

BEIRUT: A United Nations mission to oversee an end to violence in Syria may need to bring in its own aircraft and deploy more troops to ensure that a firm ceasefire takes hold throughout the country, UN Secretary General BanKi-moon said on Tuesday.   

A six-day-old truce has held in some parts of Syria since President Bashar al-Assad pledged to enforce it last week.

But in strong opposition areas such as Homs, Hama, Idlib and Deraathe army continues to attack and battle rebels, using heavy weapons in violation of the pledge by Damascus to pull back.

After negotiations led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan acting as envoy of the United Nations and Arab League, Assad’s government has agreed to allow a small UN force to monitor the ceasefire.

But the planned 250-strong mission is a fraction of the size of UN peacekeeping forces sent to other conflicts, raising doubt among Assad's opponents about whether it can be effective or will serve as a fig leaf substitute for more robust action.

Annan delivered a status report to Arab League ministers, who called on Assad to let the UN observers do their job.

"We fully support Mr Annan and his six-point plan, but sadly, the killing still goes on," Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabr al-Thani told reporters after the meeting. "We are fearful that the regime is playing for time. We expressed this to Mr Annan."

UN Secretary-General Ban said the ceasefire was being “generally observed" although there was still violence.

But the 250 observers would be "not enough considering the current situation and the vastness of the country".

He said in Luxembourg that the UN was asking the European Union to provide helicopters and planes for the operation, which he would propose formally to the Security Council on Wednesday.

It was not clear whether Assad would agree to allow more UN troops and foreign aircraft into the country. A political source in neighboring Lebanon said Damascus had already refused the use of UN helicopters.

The protocol for the mission - which must have Syrian consent - is being worked out in Damascus by a team of UN peacekeeping officers.

Monitors also made an exploratory trip outside the capital.

"A group of international observers visited Deraa in the south of Syria today," UN spokesman Khaled al-Masri said."They met the governor and toured the city."

Deraa is where the revolt against Assad began in March 2011. The city and surroundings have experienced extreme violence.


j. von hettlingen | 9 years ago | Reply

Sadly enough, it looks as if Assad is still in control. No peace-keeping troops can enter Syria without his consent. It's unlikely that Ban Ki-moon's "inclusive political dialogue" between the warring parties would be reality. Assad still believes his brutal crackdowns on the opposition would prevail in the end, despite the urgent demand for his stepping down. It will be interesting to see how long the ceasefire will last and if he guarantees the freedom of movement and the safety of the U.N. observers.

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