Russia and China joined the rest of the UN Security Council on Saturday to
authorize the deployment to Syria of up to 30 unarmed observers to monitor the
country’s fragile ceasefire as called for by UN-Arab League mediator Kofi
It is the first resolution the 15-nation council approved since
the anti-government uprising in Syria began 13 months ago. Moscow and Beijing
twice vetoed council resolutions condemning Syrian President Bashar Assad’s
assault on protesters opposed to his rule.
Opposition activists said at
least six people were killed in Syria on Saturday as the Security Council
tentatively was scheduled to vote to authorize an advance team to monitor a
fragile three-day-old ceasefire.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on
Saturday that the advance team would be sent soon and that he would make
proposals by next Wednesday regarding a full observer mission.
make sure that this advance observer mission will be dispatched as soon as
possible and try to make concrete proposals by the 18th of April for an official
observer mission. That I will discuss with Syrian authorities and I will
instruct DPKO [the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations] to take the
necessary measures,” Ban told United Nations radio in Geneva.
Saturday’s unanimous vote, there were no signs that the divisions that had been
preventing the Security Council from taking action had been
Syria’s close ally and arms supplier Moscow was satisfied with
the resolution’s final draft, although Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly
Churkin, made clear that there were limits to the kind of action Moscow would
“Out of respect for the sovereignty of Syria we have cautioned
against destructive attempts at external interference or imposing any kind of
illusory fixes,” Churkin said.
Russia accused the United States and
Europe of having tricked it into using a UN mandate to protect civilians in
Libya to enable NATO engage in “regime change.”
Russia abstained from a
March 2011 vote and allowed a council resolution authorizing “all necessary
measures” to protect Libyan civilians to pass.
French Ambassador Gerard
Araud added that the new-found unity on the council may not be
permanent. “Our consensus is fragile,” he said.
Before agreeing to support what was originally a US-drafted
text, Russia demanded that the US and European delegations dilute it so that it
would not “demand” that Syria comply. The approved resolution uses softer
language so that it “calls upon” Syria to implement it.
demanded that the council urge the opposition as well as the Syrian government
to change their behavior.
The approved resolution has the council
“condemning the widespread violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities,
as well as any human rights abuses by armed groups, recalling that those
responsible shall be held accountable.”
It calls on “all parties,
including the opposition, immediately to cease all armed violence in all its
The text also includes a vague warning to Damascus, saying the
council would “assess the implementation of this resolution and... consider
further steps as appropriate.”
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari
reiterated Damascus’s commitment to Annan’s six-point peace plan, which calls
for an end to fighting, the withdrawal of troops, dialogue between the
government and opposition, and a “political transition” for the
“The time for violence is gone,” Ja’afari said, though he
accused the opposition of “50 violations” of the truce since
Annan had asked the council to approve the deployment of an
advance team of monitors as soon as possible.
His spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi,
said on Friday that the first group of observers was on stand-by and ready to
fly to Syria as soon as the council approved its deployment.
planning for an observer force that will have up to 250 monitors.
council members welcomed the resolution but had harsh words for Assad’s
US Ambassador Susan Rice condemned what she said was
Damascus’s “murderous rampage” over the past year, adding that the sporadic
violence since Thursday’s ceasefire cast doubt on the government’s commitment to
Asked if the Syrian forces’ shelling on Saturday of the battered
city of Homs was a violation of the ceasefire, Rice said:
Britain had similar remarks.
“We regret 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,”
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said.
Lyall Grant and France’s Araud
both said that Assad’s forces had killed over 10,000 people, higher than the UN
estimate of 9,000.
On the ground, activists on Saturday reported the
first shelling in the city of Homs by forces loyal to Assad since the ceasefire
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four people
were killed during a funeral march in Aleppo, and another from shelling in Homs.
A sixth person succumbed to wounds inflicted by torture in the central town of
Rastan, straddling the Damascus-Aleppo road.
editor-inchief of the Asharq Alawsat newspaper, wrote Saturday that President
Barack Obama needed to reassert US leadership over the Syria crisis.
Obama, please return to the Syrian issue today, particularly as it is more than
enough that the international community has, over the past year, provided Assad
with one opportunity after another – or shall we say a license – to kill more
Syrian people,” Alhomayed wrote in an op-ed in the Saudi English-language
newspaper Arab News.
“Mr. President,” he wrote, “return to the Syrian
issue, for all excuses have been exhausted.”
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