UN looks for ‘broader mandate’ to monitor Syrian ceasefire

The violence in Syria cannot be averted by means of traditional observers, believes UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. Therefore the UN is preparing a peace-keeping mission with a “broad and flexible mandate” to ensure the conflict ends April 12.

­“What we would need on the ground is a small nimble United Nations presence,” Annan announced during a video-conference briefing from Geneva.

He further told the UN General Assembly that this force would need to be deployed quickly with a broad and flexible mandate, with its freedom of movement throughout the country and security assured. Annan said it should engage all relevant parties and “constantly and rapidly observe, establish and assess facts and conditions on the ground in an objective manner.”

“We need to keep the unique character of the Syrian crisis in mind,” Kofi Annan stressed, adding that the violence in Syria “cannot be averted through the means of the traditional observer mission interposed between two armies.”

The idea of sending an effective UN supervision mission to keep the peace was supported in full by the UNSC and both sides of the conflict in Syria, Annan said.

Syria’s government welcomed the arrival of an advance UN team led by Norwegian Major-General Robert Mood on Thursday. Their mission is to prepare the potential deployment of observers.

A spokesman for Kofi Annan, Ahmad Fawzi, confirmed the arrival and said the UN is already asking members to contribute some 250 soldiers to monitor a ceasefire.

­Compliance with six-point peace plan

­Annan said he is aware that the Syrian government is partially withdrawing troops from populated areas, particularly the cities of Deraa, Idlib und Sabadani, in order to comply with his six-point peace plan.

If the April 10 deadline earlier adopted by the Syrian government is met, then all opposition fighters should stop their operations within 48 hours of the deadline – by 6 am local time on April 12.

“All interlocutors with whom we have spoken have committed to call for the cessation of violence once the Syrian government has demonstrably fulfilled its commitments,” Annan said.

The Syrian government is also taking certain steps towards implementing other points of the peace plan, besides the ceasefire. Over the last few weeks, some 21 European, Russian, Korean, and US journalists have been granted visas to Syria. The government is also planning to release detainees within a few weeks of the ceasefire and, according to the ICRC head, provide access to detention facilities throughout the country.

The Syrian government has indicated that it is going to update the peace envoy on the situation, but Annan said that it is not enough and “more far reaching action is urgently required.”

­Situation on the ground

Meanwhile, reports of casualties keep coming from Syria. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed anxiety over the ongoing violence, saying that the attacks on areas inhabited by civilians have not stopped, despite the “acceptance of Annan’s peace plan on the part of the Syrian government.”

Activists claim that on Thursday Syrian troops launched heavy assaults on populated areas across the country.

“We are increasing our efforts to have an objective understanding of what is happening on the ground and who is doing what,” Kofi Annan said. “And I would welcome support in this endeavor from those with the influence and capacity.”

Violence has forced thousands to flee the country over the last year. Just over the last few days, more than 1,600 refugees have arrived in neighboring Turkey, according to the country's disaster management agency.

Reaching a truce is the keystone of the Annan’s peace plan to stop the bloodshed that has claimed over 9,000 lives since last March.