UN ends observer mission in Syria

Friday, August 17, 2012
Gérard Araud addressing media persons
[PHOTO: UNifeed] 
New York: The President of the Security Council for the month of August announced that the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) will be allowed to expire and a new liaison office will be established in Damascus.

After closed consultations, Ambassador Gérard Araud of France told reporters outside the Council that "the dismantling of the UNSMIS will start in a few days," but added that "there will be a UN presence" which he hopes, will be "a useful UN presence."

Initially set up in April for 90 days, the mission's mandate was extended for another 30 days in late July when the Council adopted resolution 2059. That resolution also indicated that further renewals to UNSMIS' mandate would be possible only if it can be confirmed that the use of heavy weapons has ceased and a reduction in violence by all sides was sufficient to allow the Mission to implement its mandate. With the 30-day extension, the mission's mandate is set to expire on Sunday.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin lamented "that the UNSMIS mandate is coming to an end" and said "those members of the Council who insisted that the UNSMIS can't continue do not really show a commitment to ending hostilities and to working towards a political settlement in Syria."

Churkin however welcomed the letter from the Secretary-General expressing his intention to establish an "effective and flexible UN presence in Damascus."

He said that such a presence "will help end hostilities" and "will support negotiated, inclusive political dialogue."              

The Russian Ambassador also informed reporters that he had convened a meeting of the Geneva Action Group for tomorrow in New York to discuss and agree on modalities to end the violence and find a political solution.  The so-called action group consists of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain, as well as Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq.

Also speaking to reporters outside the Security Council, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmund Mulet said that work has already started on the establishment of the liaison office, "identifying the staff that is currently in Damascus, that will continue there" and will continue "now that we have an official decision by the Security Council."    

Syria has been wracked by violence, with an estimated 17,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago. Over the past fortnight, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country's two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo. - UNifeed
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