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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Sending Truce Observers to Syria

Margaret Besheer | The United Nations April 14, 2012

The United Nations Security Council unanimously gave the go ahead Saturday for a small group of observers to be deployed to Syria to monitor a fragile truce between the government and armed opposition fighters. Some last-minute negotiations were required to win the full 15-nation council’s approval.

Resolution 2042 authorizes up to 30 monitors to be deployed immediately to Syria, where a shaky truce held Saturday despite reports of government shelling in the flashpoint city of Homs.

Britain's ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, noted that the resolution is clear about the commitments both the Syrian government and the opposition must fulfill.

"First, it must end the movement of troops towards and begin the pull back from population centers and cease the use of heavy weapons. As the Joint Special Envoy [Kofi Annan] has made clear, it must also return troops and heavy weapons to their barracks. Second, it must implement the full six-point proposal in its entirety; and third, it must ensure that the monitoring mission we have authorized can operate effectively with full freedom of movement and access, freedom to interview individuals without retaliation against them, allow unobstructed communications and guarantee its safety without prejudice to freedom of movement. The opposition, too, must refrain from violence and ensure that it gives the regime no excuse to renege on its commitments," he said.

This is the first time since the crisis began over a year ago that the council has adopted a resolution on the situation. But that unanimity was threatened Friday, when veto-holder Russia raised objections to language in a western-drafted resolution and presented its own version. Negotiations continued into the evening and by Saturday morning, compromises had been made to bring Moscow on board with the western text.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council after the vote that Moscow considers the final resolution to be more balanced. "For many months now, the situation in Syria has been the subject of the fixed attention and alarm of the international community and it is understandable. There have been too many casualties, too much suffering to befall the Syrian people, with too many destructive consequences if the crisis continues to ratchet up, not only for Syria itself, but for regional peace and stability," he said.

The British ambassador said 25 monitors have been identified and could begin arriving in Syria within 24 hours now that their mission has been authorized.

But U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice cautioned that their deployment would be a test to see if it is possible to send a larger mission.

"The resolution also expresses the council's intention to establish a larger observer mission once the secretary-general presents a blueprint and if it is clear the cease-fire is holding and the government is cooperating. We see this advance team's deployment as an important test of the Syrian government's intentions. If the government obstructs its work it will raise serious concerns about moving forward with the establishment of the full mission," she said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must present the council with his recommendations for a full monitoring mission by Wednesday.

Mr. Ban and U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan met Saturday evening in Geneva, where they welcomed the adoption of the council resolution authorizing the advance team's deployment and reiterating the Security Council's full support for Mr. Annan's six-point plan.

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