UN Peacekeeping Chief: Main Battle for Aleppo About to Begin

Posted August 3rd, 2012 at 2:00 am (UTC-5)
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U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous says the main battle for the Syrian city of Aleppo is about to begin.

Ladsous told reporters after a Security Council meeting Thursday that observers on the ground say the violence there is getting worse.

Syrian forces have been pounding the country's largest city with tanks and helicopters for nearly three weeks trying to seize control from rebels seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled and an unknown number have been killed.

U.N. envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, announced Thursday that he is quitting. He blamed what he called a lack of unity in the Security Council.

The White House said the resignation highlights the failure of Russia and China to back meaningful resolutions against Mr. Assad.

China said it regrets Mr. Annan's resignation and understands the difficulties of his mediation work.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China is open to initiatives that are conducive to a “political resolution” to the Syrian conflict. He said China supports the U.N. continuing to play an important role in an appropriate solution.

Both the Syrian rebels and the government failed to commit themselves to Mr. Annan's peace plan for Syria, which included an immediate cease-fire and talks on a transitional government. The three Security Council resolutions that China and Russia vetoed would have held President Assad responsible for his failure to abide by the Annan plan and threatened him with sanctions.

The Council Thursday also debated whether to renew the mandate of the U.N. observer mission for Syria. The mission expires on August 19th. French Ambassador and current Council president Gerard Araud expressed doubt about whether the mission would be extended. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin says he strongly backs a renewal.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the U.N. General Assembly votes on a Saudi-drafted resolution on Syria expressing grave concern about the violence in the country and condemning the Security Council's lack of action.

Unlike Security Council measures, General Assembly resolutions are non-binding and cannot be vetoed.