UN acts on Syria as nine die in ceasefire breach

Finally, Russia and China sign up to resolution that will send in 250 international observers

By Edith M Lederer

at the UNITED NATIONS

 

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to dispatch military observers to Syria as at least nine people were killed in scattered violence that threatened the country's fragile ceasefire.

The heaviest fighting was reported in Homs where forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, pictured inset, shelled areas held by rebels, who returned fire with rocket-propelled grenades. In Aleppo, Syria's largest city, government forces were reported to have opened fire on mourners at a funeral. Meanwhile, opposition gunmen ambushed a car carrying soldiers in the southern province of Daraa. The tit-for-tat attacks came as the two sides traded allegations of violations of a UN-brokered truce, which formally took effect on Thursday.

The vote marked the first time since the conflict began more than a year ago that UN diplomats on the council had all agreed on a resolution. It called on both sides to immediately "cease all armed violence in all its forms". It also called on the Syrian government to implement the six-point peace plan drawn up by the international envoy Kofi Annan, including the withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from cities and towns.

The resolution authorised the deployment of an advance team of up to 30 unarmed military observers to contact both sides and report on the ceasefire. The council said it immediately intends to establish a larger UN supervision mission after talks between Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Syrian government. Deployment of a larger force will be "subject to a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties".

A spokesman for Mr Annan, Ahmad Fawzi, has said that the envoy envisions a mission with about 250 observers. Russia and China vetoed two previous resolutions that would have condemned President Assad's government for its bloody crackdown on protesters and raised the threat of possible further action. The two countries argued that the resolutions were not balanced and didn't address the attacks by rebel fighters.

In the debate on the resolution adopted yesterday, Russia submitted a rival text to the US and Western-backed draft, and raised questions on Friday evening about the final draft. But Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters before yesterday's vote that Moscow "was satisfied" and would vote yes.

The ceasefire is at the centre of Mr Annan's peace plan, which is aimed at ending more than a year of bloodshed that has killed at least 9,000 people, according to the UN, and to launch inclusive Syrian-led talks on the country's political future. Mr Annan called for the speedy deployment of UN monitors, and his spokesman told a news conference in Geneva on Friday that an advance team of "around 10 or 12" observers, which could quickly be increased to 30, was "standing by to board planes and to get themselves on the ground as soon as possible" once the Security Council approved their deployment.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, welcomed the decision. "This mission is a vital step in supporting the fragile ceasefire in Syria," he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Germany is looking into a report that weapons bound for the Syrian regime were loaded on to a German-owned ship. Der Spiegel reported yesterday that the Atlantic Cruiser was halted in the Mediterranean after its owners were warned it was suspected of carrying Iranian military equipment to Tartus in Syria.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before