By: Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS – Britain and France are prepared to counter Russia with their own draft resolution on the U.N. monitoring mission in Syria after the U.N. Security Council is briefed by international envoy Kofi Annan on Wednesday, diplomats said.
The deeply divided 15-member council must decide the future of the mission, known as UNSMIS, before July 20 when its initial 90-day mandate expires. It approved 300 unarmed military observers to monitor an April 12 ceasefire – that has failed to take hold – as part of Annan’s plan to broker peace in Syria.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has recommended a shift in the emphasis of UNSMIS’ work from military observers – who suspended most of their monitoring activities on June 16 because of increased risk amid rising violence – to the roughly 100 civilian staff focusing on a political solution and issues like human rights.
“We have a number of drafts ready but we will consider exactly which text to circulate in the light of Mr. Annan’s briefing,” said Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.
He said UNSMIS had been unable to fulfill its objectives of monitoring a cessation of violence and overseeing the implementation of Annan’s six-point peace plan, which had been agreed to by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The question of a rollover (of the mission) doesn’t really apply until we know what the wider context and the wider plan is and in that wider context what the future role of UNSMIS might be,” Lyall Grant said.
Assad’s forces have killed more than 15,000 people since a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters began in March 2011, some Western leaders say. Damascus says rebels have killed several thousand of its security forces.
Russia proposed a draft resolution on Tuesday to extend UNSMIS for three months.
But it does not satisfy the United States and European council members, who have called for a resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows the council to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention.
U.S. officials have said they are talking about sanctions on Syria, not military intervention.
“We think it’s a mistake to focus just on UNSMIS in isolation. We want compliance with the decisions of the Security Council. We want to see a stop to heavy weapons and we want to make use of our toolbox,” Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig told reporters on Wednesday.
Russia and China, who have previously vetoed U.N. resolutions designed to pressure Assad, are unlikely to support a resolution threatening sanctions.
“We will support a rollover (of UNSMIS),” China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong told reporters.
Annan will be briefing the Security Council on the results of a lightning diplomatic shuttle this week to Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad – three capitals forming a Shi’ite Muslim axis of power in the Middle East.
Annan plunged into a tussle between the major powers on Tuesday, insisting that Iran, which strongly backs Assad and is regarded as an adversary of the West and Gulf Arabs, had a role to play in the drive to relaunch stalled peace efforts and begin talks towards a political transition.