UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny)
UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on
Wednesday that the Arab League chief told him he intends to revive an Arab League
monitoring mission in Syria, which has collapsed amid continuing violence
Nabil Elaraby asked for UN help with the project during a
telephone conversation on Tuesday, Ban told reporters after briefing the UN
Security Council on a visit he just paid to the Middle East.
Elaraby further proposed a joint UN-Arab League observer mission, including a joint
special envoy, for Syria, where a harsh crackdown on an 11-month-old uprising
has left thousands dead, according to UN figures. Ban said the United Nations
was ready to help, but indicated no decision had been taken.
"informed me that he intends to send the Arab League observer mission back to
Syria and asked for UN help," the UN chief said.
The mission first
went to Syria in December, reaching a strength of 165 members, but the Arab
League suspended it on January 28 because of worsening violence, although it did
not wind it up altogether. Six Gulf Arab states, Jordan and Morocco have pulled out their
teams, but other members are still in Syria.
Elaraby told Reuters in an
interview in Cairo on Monday that a new mission could be sent but under
different terms and with more members.
"If we are going to send another
mission, and we are contemplating that, it has to be stronger in numbers and in
equipment. The mandate has to be different," he said, adding it would need
international not just Arab backing this time.
Arab foreign ministers
have been planning to meet on Sunday to discuss the fate of the monitoring
mission. It was not immediately clear whether the plan to revive the mission
would go ahead anyway.
Ban said that "in the coming days we will further
consult the (Security) Council before fleshing out details. We stand ready to
assist in any way that will contribute towards improvement on the ground and to
the overall situation." "No detailed discussions have taken place yet. We will
have to discuss with the Arab League on detailed matters," he said later in
reply to questions.
Ban did not say what help the United Nations might
give. UN diplomats and officials have spoken in the past of possible training
Elaraby said this week any new monitoring mission would
require Syria's approval.
A Security Council diplomat said discussion of
any UN involvement was at an early stage. "I think what we would want to see
would be a mission that was really making a difference, not just standing by and
watching people being killed," said the diplomat, who asked not to be
Turning to Israel-PA negotiations, Ban repeated his position that an agreement can be reached despite a recent Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement
. "I believe that Palestinian reconciliation and negotiations with Israel need not be mutually exclusive," he said.
Ban also urged the two sides to submit concrete proposals on security and territory. "Goodwill gestures and positive facts on the ground will go a long way toward setting the stage for progress in the negotiations."
In response to a question about the timing of negotiations, Ban said "while the situation may look fragile and volatile in the region, this is the right moment to enter into negotiations to promote peace and stability in the region."