UN to consider new Syria office

 

The UN Security Council will debate today whether to establish a new civilian office to support UN and Arab League efforts to end the 18-month conflict in Syria when the UN military observer mission comes to an end on Sunday.

The council had set two conditions for possibly extending the mission of the unarmed observers past August 19 - a halt to the government's use of heavy weapons and a significant reduction in violence.

In a letter to the council last Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said neither condition was met and Syria now risks "a descent into a full-scale civil war".

But with the end of the unarmed observer mission looming, Mr Ban said "it is imperative for the United Nations to have a presence in Syria" apart from its humanitarian operation in order to support UN and Arab League efforts "in mediating and facilitating a peaceful resolution to the crisis".

"I intend therefore to work in the immediate future towards establishing an effective and flexible United Nations presence in Syria that will support our efforts with the parties to end hostilities," he said.

France's UN Ambassador Gerard Araud, the current Security Council president, said members will be discussing the observer mission and Mr Ban's proposal at a closed meeting today where they will be briefed by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Edmond Mulet.

"I think there is a consensus among the members of the Security Council that we need to have a UN presence remaining in Damascus, in Syria, after August 20," Mr Araud told reporters yesterday.

"We'll see whether it's possible to have a consensus around the proposal of the Secretary-General."

The Security Council initially authorised the 300-strong observer mission to deploy to Syria for 90 days to monitor implementation of a six-point peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

The plan was to start with a ceasefire and withdrawal of the government's heavy weapons and culminate with Syrian-led political talks.

President Bashar Assad's government and opposition forces agreed to the plan, but it was never implemented.

Because of the worsening bloodshed and insecurity, the observers have been mainly confined to their hotels since June 15 and their numbers have been cut by about two-thirds.

The UN said yesterday that 110 observers remain in Syria, mainly in Damascus. Yesterday, a bomb exploded outside their hotel, injuring three people, but no observers were hurt.

Frustrated at the escalating conflict and the failure of world powers on the Security Council to unite to stop the chaos, Mr Annan announced last month that he was resigning with effect from August 31.

Mr Ban told reporters in East Timor yesterday that he is expediting the selection of a successor to Mr Annan, and he again urged government and opposition forces to stop the violence and start a political dialogue.

"More than 18,000 people have been killed during the last 18 months," he said. "The Syrian people have suffered too much too long. The international community must feel the sense of collective responsibility on this situation. How long do we have to endure this kind of a tragedy? This is not justice and this is not acceptable."

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Mr Annan said Syrian authorities backed former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran UN trouble-shooter in hotspots including Afghanistan and Iraq, as his successor, but it was unclear whether Mr Brahimi had accepted the post.

Several UN diplomats said Mr Brahimi wants a signal of support from the deeply divided Security Council.

Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed Security Council resolutions which would have stepped up pressure especially against the Syrian government by threatening sanctions if the fighting did not stop.

France's Mr Araud said he had no information about Mr Brahimi but told reporters that any candidate to replace Mr Annan has to take into account the council divisions and the situation on the ground. At the moment, both sides believe they can win militarily and there is no prospect of a political transition, he said.

"It's a bit (of an) impossible mission. So I do understand that people hesitate to take this mission, but... we need to have somebody who could be available if there is any prospect of launching a political process.

"The UN simply can't leave the room."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project