UN Team Heading to Syria to Discuss Peacekeepers

Posted April 3rd, 2012 at 1:30 pm (UTC-5)
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An advance United Nations team is due to arrive in Syria within 48 hours to discuss the deployment of peacekeepers in a bid to halt violence from the government's year-long crackdown on dissent.

Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, made the announcement on Tuesday. He told VOA that the team would work out the details of deploying international monitors to the country.

The announcement comes a day after Mr. Annan said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had agreed to begin pulling out his forces from opposition protest hubs and complete the pullout by April 10.

Middle East Institute scholar Wayne White says a possible peacekeeping deployment and promises of a cease-fire from Mr. Assad are not necessarily indications that Syria's crackdown on dissent is ending.

“What we could see is deployment of observers and, as with the case of the Arab League observers, the observers leaving with dismay because their presence was not apparently meaning anything, especially to the Syrian government.”

In an interview with VOA, White says he does not expect Mr. Assad to change his stance against the opposition.

“Unfortunately, this is going to be a fight to the finish. I think that Assad will not leave office unless he is driven from office and he will not stop hammering the opposition until the opposition give us, if it ever does. It is to some degree a slugging match.”

The cease-fire proposal is part of a peace plan drafted by Mr. Annan last month and later endorsed by a U.N. Security Council statement. The U.N. says more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began a year ago.

In spite of the plan, clashes continued Tuesday. Syrian activists and rights groups say shelling erupted in several areas, including Homs. In Idlib province, heavy fighting took place on the outskirts of the town of Taftanaz. Several deaths were reported nationwide.

In an interview with VOA, the U.N.'s Fawzi said Mr. Annan's office is “very concerned about reports of continued violence.” He said officials hope the unrest will stop now rather than on April 10.

International Red Cross chief Jakob Kellenberger said Tuesday that it was too early to predict results from his meetings with Syrian government officials. The Red Cross chief traveled to Damascus to try to secure an agreement on implementing a daily two-hour pause in attacks to provide humanitarian assistance.

Syrian state-run media says Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem pledged cooperation with the international relief group.