UN Chief: Syria Failing on Peace Plan, Observer Mission Needed

Posted April 19th, 2012 at 4:40 am (UTC-5)
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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Syria has yet to fully implement a cease-fire deal, but he is calling on the U.N. Security Council to authorize a three-month observer mission.

In a letter to the president of the Security Council, obtained by VOA, Mr. Ban said President Bashar al-Assad's government has not pulled back its troops and heavy weapons, and that no progress has been made on humanitarian access or the release of detainees.

Mr. Ban proposed a 300-member observer mission to be deployed in approximately 10 locations in Syria. He said the mission should monitor the cessation of violence according to a peace plan brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

The letter also says it will be up to the Syrian government to ensure the safety of the observers and that they can move freely.

Mr. Annan's deputy and the deputy head of the U.N. peacekeeping department are scheduled to brief the Security Council Thursday.

An advance U.N. team began working in Syria earlier this week. Mr. Ban said Syrian officials denied the observers' request to visit Homs, citing security concerns.

He said shots were fired in a Damascus suburb Wednesday during a visit by the monitors. It is unclear who was responsible for the shooting, which took place during an anti-government protest.

Syrian rights activists said violence continued Thursday with clashes between government troops and army defectors in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighting killed one person and wounded three others.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the situation in Syria is “at a critical turning point.”

She spoke in Brussels a day before Thursday's “Friends of Syria” meeting in Paris, where she is expected to join Arab and European foreign ministers.

“Either we succeed in pushing forward with Kofi Annan's plan in accordance with the Security Council direction with the help of monitors, steadily broadening and deepening a zone of non-conflict and peace, or we see Assad squandering his last chance before additional measures have to be considered.”

Syrian National Council chief Burhan Ghalioun said the meeting is important as the international community continues to look at using sanctions to pressure Mr. Assad, but that other measures, including protecting civilians, are still needed.

“I think we need to go back to the idea of protecting the civilians. It was done in Kosovo and elsewhere. There is no reason why after fourteen months of organized, collective and systematic killings that the international community is not looking at a plan that could help people to protect themselves.”

Yezid Sayigh of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut told VOA that the continued violence after the cease-fire went into effect shows it will be difficult to keep each side in check.

The U.N. says the crackdown in Syria has killed more than 9,000 people since March 2011.