Last chance for diplomacy for Syria?
TALK RADIO NEWS SERVICE
UNITED NATIONS - Special envoy Kofi Annan will brief the UN Security Council this morning on a new proposal by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to end the violence in Syria.
Annan, who was in Damascus Monday, says the Syrian President has suggested the UN work with his the government in parts of the country affected by heavy fighting, but didn’t provide other details about the possible new initiative. The former Secretary General said he would present the offer to opposition groups later this week.
“There are serious pockets of violence around Syria and [President Assad] suggested that we try – that we work with them – in trying to end the violence in each of those pockets and in other places, from the ground up, rather than the other way around.” Annan told reporters in Baghdad late Tuesday before leaving for Geneva. “I believe that if everyone works on it seriously then it could work. We are also, as I have indicated, going to discuss this with the opposition on the ground.”
Cooperation between government forces and rebels seems unlikely at this stage in the conflict, even though both sides initially implemented a UN brokered ceasefire for a short period in April.
Last week at a Friends of Syria meeting in Paris, prominent Syrian opposition parties said they would reject any political transition that included Assad and called for his resignation. Several Arab and Western governments, including permanent Security Council members like the US, UK and France, also said the Syrian President needed to step down.
Annan will brief the council in a closed door meeting by video conference from Geneva, and is expected to hold a press conference shortly afterwards.
Meanwhile in New York, Russian diplomats Tuesday presented members of Security Council with a new draft resolution that would extend the UN mission in Syria’s mandate for another three months, according to Reuters and the Associated Press.
The United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria, a force of 300 unarmed military observers, was deployed back in April for an initial 90 day period to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire and UN peace plan. An escalation in fighting forced UNSMIS to suspend operations in mid June and the Security Council has since been unable to agree on the mission’s future.
Russia and China both support the UN’s continued presence, as Moscow’s new text reportedly renews the current UNSMIS force but refocuses its efforts towards brokering a peaceful solution.
In a report to the Security Council last week, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon also suggested the mission could be scaled down to a smaller team to focus on strengthening dialogue and negotiations towards a sustained ceasefire.
But the US and Europe have been hesitant to extend the UNSMIS mandate and argue the mission has had very little impact on the ground. Western officials have instead said the Security Council should consider a Chapter 7 resolution, which would allow the deployment of armed peacekeepers and the use of force.
The UN mission’s mandate in Syria expires July 21.
Syrian human rights groups say that more than 16 000 people have been killed since violence first started over 16 months ago and humanitarian organizations say ongoing fighting has pushed at least 100 000 people to flee into neighboring countries. The Assad government blames the violence on foreign armed terrorist groups, and contends the death toll is closer to 7 000, with more than half the casualties coming from government security forces.
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