UN officials said they hope the arrival of a team of unarmed military observers to Syria helps bring the yearlong crisis to an end after a week in which fresh outbreaks of violence threatened to shatter a 2-week-old cease-fire.
Several members of a team of 300 observers authorized by the UN Security Council are expected to continue trickling into the country as early as Monday, a UN spokesman said Friday.
There were 15 in place as of Friday when the head of the United Nations said hostilities between the government and opposition groups in Syria had reached an “intolerable stage,” and as Damascus was rocked with a suicide bombing that killed nearly a dozen people.
Saturday, activists said regime forces battled army defectors near President Bashar Assad’s summer palace and shelled a Damascus suburb.
“I am gravely alarmed that despite repeated commitments to end violence, the killings continue without relent,” said Ban Ki-moon, speaking in New Delhi on Friday. “The continued repression of the civilian population is totally unacceptable. It must stop immediately. The government of Syria must live up to its promises to the world.”
Syria derided Ban as biased and called his comments “outrageous” Saturday.
The cease-fire was brokered by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has been serving as a special envoy to Syria for the United Nations and Arab League.
Ban on Friday named Major Gen. Robert Mood of Norway as the head of the military observers. There are 15 observers in place already but Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for Annan, said he hopes that number will reach 25 by Monday and 100 by mid-May, according to The Washington Post.
The observers are to be deployed for 90 days to monitor the cease-fire in Syria as well as monitor the government of Syria and the opposition groups’ compliance with the terms of Annan’s six-point plan to bring an end to the yearlong crisis in Syria.
Annan’s plan calls for a cease-fire, access for humanitarian agencies, the release of detainees and the start of inclusive political dialogue.
Syria has come under fire in recent days for violating a provision of the plan calling for the withdrawal of heavy military apparatus from population centers.
On Thursday, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said she was not confident the observer mission would succeed.
“We are going to be watching very carefully to determine if this observer mission is having the impact that we all hoped it would, even if our expectations were low,” she said. “And if it isn’t, we will be very ready within the 90-day period to come back to this Council and discuss what pressures ought to be applied.”
Source: News Day