UNSC Passed Resolution on 300-Member Mission In Syria
Syrian troops are reported to have attacked on Sunday districts in a suburb of the capital Damascus, hours after the United Nations Security Council voted in favor of a 300-member mission of observers in Syria, in hopes to preserve the ceasefire which took effect a week and a half ago.
The first 13 members of the mission have already arrived in different points of the restive country and fighting is said to have stopped while they were there, but reports come of flares of violence in different places though the peace seems to be observed in the most part of the country.
Two people have been confirmed dead by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which has observers on the ground. A third one is said to have died in a village near Damascus. The first two died as a result of a fighting between the army and rebels in a neighborhood where clashes used to be very violent before the ceasefire went into effect. The third was killed at a checkpoint, when the army opened fire.
There are reports of people who say, according to USA Today, that the U.N. ceasefire agreement is a “joke,” because the troops leave the streets and hide their military equipment when the observers come to the area, and that the shelling and the shooting resumes as soon as they have left.
Eight members of the advance team operating in Syria have visited suburbs in Damascus and the southern province of Daraa, while other five went to visit Homs on Saturday and reported that they found an unusually quiet city, considering that intense shelling and killing had been taking place in this hotbed of the revolution.
Videos posted on the internet show observers with blue helmets and bulletproof vests being asked by the people of Homs, as they walk through the deserted rubble-strewn streets, to stay in Homs, and protect them or to send international military to oust Bashar al-Assad.
On Saturday the UNSC voted in favor of a 300-member mission to monitor the ceasefire in Syria, a move deemed by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, the special envoy to Syria, as a “pivotal moment” for the stabilization of the country.
In a statement issued in Geneva, Annan demanded the Syrian government to withdraw its troops and the heavy weaponry from the streets of the country, something the government failed to do as part of the six-point plan. The complete withdrawal was supposed to predate the ceasefire, but the Syrian government decided to keep them in the streets after failing to receive written assurances from the rebels that they would not occupy the place left vacant by the troops.
Many believe that the maneuver is also a deterrent move, intended to keep the people away from the streets, thereby curving the peaceful protests of the population, which had been expected to flood the streets soon after the weapons became silent.
The resolution voted on Saturday offered Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary General, the possibility to decide when and where to deploy the monitoring unit, but the mandate of the mission extends to three months only.
Annan demanded both the government and the rebels to put down weapons in order to consolidate the truce, but stressed on the need that the government pull out the heavy artillery and the troops from the streets.
A meeting occurred earlier this week in France between the countries of the Friends of Syrian People group, and a number of up to 400 members of the mission would be enough to cover the territory of Syria, in order to make it useful. The operative word used in France to describe the mission was “robust.”
The meeting, which was attended by U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton but not by the Russian officials, which called it “destructive” of the effort to bring peace in Syria, was convened to offer solutions for the success of Anna’s mission but also to offer different approaches in case the plan does not work.
The French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe reminded that the members of the group did not trust Assad to keep his word about the ceasefire plan, which is why they discussed possible solutions to the crisis.
The French FM did not bring up as a solution the idea of creating humanitarian corridors, an idea he personally expressed on many occasions, and was shared by French president hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy, who, during a radio interview, compared Bashar al-Assad to Muammar al-Qaddafi, and said that the former wanted to erase Homs from the face of the earth just like the latter had sought the destruction of the city of Benghazi.
A French diplomat said in Paris that the idea of creating humanitarian corridors was too early, adding that if there was another way to distribute help to the people in Syria, it mattered not the means to do it.
The idea of entering Syrian territory is shared by Turkey, who has expressed the availability to create a buffer zone in northern Syria to accommodate the influx of refugees. The Syrian National Council demanded the Turks to do it, which would resolve the Turkish lack of international legitimacy in invading Syrian territory.
The western countries are very reluctant to bringing invasion forces on Syrian territory, especially the United States, which is in the middle of presidential elections. The zone is highly sensitive, a real political and geo-strategic “fault line,” as Assad himself called it, and Syria has weaponry capable to inflict a lot of loss to an invasion force, which could make things even worse than they are now.
Although the hope for the ceasefire to last is very faint, the failure to keep it up would expose Bashar al-Assad to the loss of Russian and Chinese support, considering that the two countries threw their help behind the plan in a first action of cooperation with the UNSC, after vetoing two previous resolutions on the matter.11