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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Security Council Considers Larger Syria Monitoring Mission

April 19, 2012

Margaret Besheer | United Nations

The U.N. Security Council is considering a request from the secretary-general to deploy up to 300 monitors to Syria, as a week-old truce is tested by reports of escalating violence.

In a letter to the Security Council on Wednesday night, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proposed an initial deployment of up to 300 unarmed U.N. military observers supported by civilian experts. He said they would be deployed incrementally over several weeks to approximately 10 locations across Syria, and stay initially for three months. The mission, which would be called the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Syria, or UNSMIS, would be funded by the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping.

On Thursday, Ban told reporters that he hopes the Security Council will act quickly to authorize the mission. “This is not a decision without risk. But I believe it can contribute to achieving a just peace and political settlement, reflecting the people’s will in Syria,” he said.

The secretary-general said that a monitoring mission with a clear mandate and under the right conditions could contribute to improving the situation in Syria, including helping to stabilize a fragile truce and setting the stage for the full implementation of joint U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan.

Ban confirmed that the United Nations and Damascus have agreed on a preliminary protocol outlining what the U.N. mission would do and the responsibilities of the Syrian government in assisting the observers. Similar discussions with opposition leaders are continuing.

But the secretary-general acknowledged that important details still needed to be finalized, including whether the government will provide helicopters and planes to transport the 300 monitors across Syria.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who holds the 15-nation council’s presidency this month, told reporters after a briefing from Annan’s deputy and the deputy of the U.N. peacekeeping department, that the Security Council would continue to discuss Ban’s proposal.

“There were a number of members of the council who expressed an eagerness to respond swiftly and affirmatively to the secretary-general’s recommendations, although many members of the council expressed concerns that the conditions contemplated and laid out, as in fact, more than contemplated - laid out as requirements - in resolution 2042 have not yet fully been met. And certainly, we all agree that they need to be met for any mission to be deployed and operate effectively,” she said.

One of those requirements is a cessation of violence, which the secretary-general said in his report has not yet been fully achieved.

Ambassador Rice said Washington agrees with that assessment. She has urged Damascus to pull back its troops and heavy weapons and to allow the advance team of monitors in Syria to be allowed to move freely and visit cities such as Homs, where heavy government shelling has been reported in recent days.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he thinks the Security Council will approve the mission, saying that members want to support Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan and the secretary-general.

“This is a situation - and I think now at this point we are now all realistic enough - which is far from perfect, which is far from what we wish it were at this point in terms of ending violence and implementing some other elements of the Kofi Annan plan," he said. "But I think the idea is that we must push forward, we must push forward, and that would also apply to the political track.”

More than 9,000 people have been killed during the past 13 months, and tens of thousands of others have been displaced, after Syrian authorities began cracking down on anti-government protests.

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