U.N. Approves Resolution on Syria Observer Mission
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to approve a resolution to allow international observers into Syria to monitor a shaky cease-fire, as reports of clashes continued to emerge from across the country.
The resolution calls on the Middle Eastern nation to allow the deployment of an advance team of up to 30 international observers and give them unimpeded freedom of movement. It remains unclear, however, if the deployment will help stem the violence that continues despite an official cease-fire called days earlier.
The U.N. resolution, the first on Syria since violence gripped the country more than a year ago, also calls on all parties to end armed violence.
Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin said Moscow, which has previously blocked the council’s resolutions, was satisfied that the text required all sides to stop fighting.
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“There have been too many casualties, too much suffering to befall the Syrian people,” Churkin said.
He warned that the unrest could affect regional peace and stability, describing the timing of the council’s decision as an “extremely critical juncture.”
Churkin noted that while Russia supports Saturday’s resolution, dialogue about the future political process “is something which unfortunately is missing.” He said his country has been discouraged by a lack of objective information and has called on the Syrian government to allow international journalists to enter.
Russia and China have so far blocked Security Council attempts to pass resolutions condemning the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The two countries have said they want the violence to stop but argued that previous resolutions were not even-handed.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice welcomed the long-awaited resolution, but said the United States was “under no illusions” about its immediate effect. She called the deployment “an important test of the Syrian government’s intentions,” before a broader observer mission can develop.
Rice, the current Security Council president, pointed to reports of ongoing violence, which already are “raising renewed doubts about the sincerity” of Syrian authorities to end hostilities.
The country’s recent shelling of the city of Homs “absolutely” constitutes a violation of the current cease-fire, she said.
Syria’s U.N. ambassador responded Saturday by saying “the ball now is in the camp of those supporting the armed groups in Syria.”
“Double standards and double language will not be sufficient to prove the credibility of those who are manipulating the armed groups, supporting them, hosting them, training them and pushing them towards committing further violence in Syria,” Bashar Jaafari said.
The Syrian ambassador also called for a lifting of sanctions, saying that it’s costing Syria billions of dollars. But while the council’s resolution to allow in observers “does not satisfy us fully,” he said, his country “will be on board.”
Moments earlier, Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant of the United Kingdom said that a narrow window now exists to improve conditions on the ground.
The U.K., he said, welcomes the resolution, but regrets “that it comes only after the Syrian people have for over one year suffered unimaginable brutality at the hands of a regime that has prioritized its own survival over the needs, rights and aspirations of the people it should serve and protect.”
Peter Wittig, the German ambassador to the U.N., said it comes “deplorably late, but hopefully not too late.”
“We must remain vigilant,” he added. “Too many commitments made by Damascus in the past have not been kept. We must not tolerate further brinkmanship.”
Meanwhile, activists in Syria reported Saturday that government forces again targeted opposition neighborhoods, despite the fragile cease-fire that has been in place since dawn Thursday as part of a six-point peace plan laid out by international special envoy Kofi Annan.