UN meets on draft to authorize Syrian observer force
UNITED NATIONS |
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council moved quickly on Thursday in an effort to honour a request from international Syria mediator Kofi Annan to authorize the deployment of a U.N. truce-monitoring force to prevent a fragile ceasefire from collapsing.
Diplomats on the 15-nation council met behind closed doors to discuss a U.S.-drafted resolution to authorize an initial deployment of up to 30 unarmed observers to Syria. They produced a revised draft, obtained by Reuters, that highlighted language Russia disliked, envoys said.
Council envoys said they would meet again on the draft at 11:00 a.m. EDT (04:00 p.m. British time) on Friday in the hope of reaching an agreement on a text they could vote on before end of the day.
A fragile U.N.-backed ceasefire aimed at halting more than a year of bloodshed in Syria appeared to be holding on Thursday but there were no signs that President Bashar al-Assad was pulling his forces out of restive cities.
Annan, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy, told the council earlier on Thursday that Syria has not fully complied with his six-point peace plan and called for the swift deployment of a U.N. observer force to the country, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said.
The 2-page draft, obtained by Reuters, would have the 15-nation council say Damascus should "ensure full and unimpeded freedom of movement throughout Syria for all (observer) mission personnel, including access, without prior notice, to any place or establishment that the mission deems necessary."
The draft includes language condemning "widespread, systematic, and gross violations of human rights ... by the Syrian authorities (and urge that) those responsible for human rights violations shall be held accountable." But the latest version puts that section in brackets, which diplomats said was because the Russian delegation objected to its wording.
Other Russian proposals included the insertion of calls on the opposition to cease fighting, as well as a softening of the demands on Damascus. The initial U.S. draft focused its appeals on the Syrian government, not the opposition.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said earlier that he hoped a resolution could be passed on Friday.
"The full-fledged mission will take some time to deploy ... If we are able to put 20 or 30 monitors (there) early next week, very good," Churkin said. "If we are able to put more in the next few days, that's even better."
Russia and China, which have twice vetoed council resolutions condemning Assad's 13-month assault on anti-government protesters but are strong supporters of Annan's peace efforts, urged Damascus and the opposition to meet all the terms and conditions of Annan's plan, including withdrawing troops.
Annan told council members that the precarious truce needed support and called for the early arrival of a first wave of unarmed observers to monitor implementation of his six-point peace plan, to be followed by a second wave of observers.
"Mr. Annan confirmed that what has happened today does not constitute full compliance by the Syrian government ... as Syrian forces and weapons remain in and around population centres," said Rice, the Security Council president for April.
"He emphasized that Syrian troops and armour must return to their barracks immediately," she told reporters after a closed-door council meeting Annan addressed via video link from Geneva.
The U.S. draft resolution would echo those demands on the Syrian government and threaten it with unidentified "further measures" if it fails to comply. Most of the demands in the draft are aimed at the government, not the opposition, something that could irritate Russia and China.
Syrian U.N. envoy Bashar Ja'afari complained that "eight violations took place this morning by the armed (rebel) groups."
He also dismissed the idea that Syria was not fully adhering to the former U.N. secretary-general's plan. "We have already complied," he said, adding that others inside the country and abroad should comply with Annan's peace plan as well.
He was especially critical of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which have been voicing support for the opposition.
Annan's six-point plan calls for a ceasefire by Syrian armed forces and rebels, the withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons, and dialogue between the government and opposition aimed at a "political transition" for the country.
Annan has called for the eventual deployment of 200 to 250 unarmed U.N.-mandated observers to monitor the ceasefire.
Syrian forces have killed more than 9,000 people in the past year, according to a U.N. estimate. Damascus says rebels have killed more than 2,600 soldiers and security personnel.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Todd Eastham)
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