Different approaches, same goal? UN vs. Friends of Syria
In a written report to the Security Council on Wednesday UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the Syrian government had failed to send “clear signs” that they were complying with the peace plan."The Syrian Government has yet to fully implement its initial obligations regarding the actions and deployments of its troops, or to return them to barracks," he wrote in the letter. In light of the plan’s failure to take hold he proposed an expansion to 300 of the team of international observers being deployed in Syria, 50 more than originally agreed.Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem responded to the proposal, saying that 250 monitors was a “reasonable number” and more observers from countries such as China, Russia and India should be included in the mission.Russia currently has one monitor on the mission and has confirmed three more will be sent to Syria shortly.An advance team of observers is currently in Syria assessing the situation. During a visit to the Arbeen district of Damascus they were reportedly caught in an opposition demonstration, with projectiles being fired, and were forced to flee to a military checkpoint. Ban Ki Moon said that the observers were unable to ascertain who initiated the firing.In addition, access to the flashpoint city of Homs was denied to the monitors, Syrian authorities claiming “security concerns” as the root cause.Meanwhile, diplomats on the 15-nation council are meeting on Thursday with Kofi Annan’s deputy Jean-Marie Guehenno to discuss the UN Chief’s assessment of the situation. They are expected to vote on a decision at the beginning of next week.The so-called Friends of Syria group is also gathering in Paris on Thursday along with members of the Syrian opposition and their supporters. Ahead of the meeting French President Nicholas Sarkozy said President Assad was a liar and wanted to wipe the city of Homs off the map, just like Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi wanted to destroy Benghazi.“We called this meeting to gather all those who cannot stand that a dictator is killing his people,” he said on Europe 1 radio.He added that the solution to the conflict was the creation of humanitarian corridors “so that an opposition can exist in Syria.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry has slammed the meeting, saying it is not aimed at promoting dialogue in Syria and will only serve to “widen the rift between the opposition and Damascus.”Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also stressed that a resolution to the conflict does not hinge on Russian negotiations with President Assad.
“The success of the plan depends on the countries which have some measure of influence over opposition groups – the US, France, the UK, Turkey, the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf and a number of other countries,” remarked Lavrov.The ceasefire set down by UN-Arab league envoy Kofi Annan came into effect a week ago, but has so far been marred by reports of both opposition and regime clashes across the country.