Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Syria: UN peacekeeping chief in Syria to assess progress of military observers

un observers in Syria
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

21 May 2012 – The head of UN peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous, today met with Syrian government and opposition group representatives in the city of Homs, during a visit to assess progress made on the ground by UN military observers.

“During the meeting, both sides expressed their commitment to the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan and noted the diminishing of violence in the city since the arrival of the military observers,” a spokesperson for the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) said.

“Mr. Ladsous affirmed that the focus now needs to be on building dialogue and confidence between the parties,” the spokesperson added.

A protest movement – similar to those across the Middle East and North Africa – has claimed over 9,000 lives in Syria, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands since it began in March 2011.

Mr. Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, arrived in Syria late last week for a four-day visit to meet with UNSMIS observers and assess developments. In Damascus, the peacekeeping chief met with both government and opposition groups to enhance facilitation and cooperation for the second phase of the observer Mission; the safety and security of the observers was also discussed.

While on the ground, Mr. Ladsous noted the record time in which the UNSMIS observers deployed, and emphasized that the end of the violence will only happen if Syrians and all parties, internal and external, choose the path of dialogue.

The violence in the Middle Eastern country led to the Security Council authorizing the establishment of UNSMIS, with up to 300 unarmed military observers, for an initial period of 90 days. Spread out in various locations, the observers are tasked with monitoring the cessation of violence and supporting the full implementation of the six-point plan put forward by the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan.

Mr. Annan’s six-point plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.

Meanwhile, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, today voiced concern over recent violent incidents which have led to loss of life in Lebanon.

“It is important that there be no further repetition of such violence and that the incidents that have occurred be fully and thoroughly investigated,” Mr. Plumbly said in a statement, in which he also expressed his condolences to the families of those killed.

According to media reports, the violence in Lebanon has been related to developments in neighbouring Syria, with clashes between sympathizers and opponents of the different sides there.

“Since I arrived in Lebanon, I have been impressed by the efforts of the security authorities and political leaders to safeguard Lebanon’s calm and stability, at a time of upheaval and uncertainty in the region,” he added. “It is imperative now that all parties in Lebanon continue to put the interests of the country above other considerations. Differences must be addressed through dialogue, not resort to violence.”

In a note to the media on Monday, a spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN chief is concerned over the tensions in Lebanon in recent days and calls on all parties to make every effort to restore calm, in addition to extending his condolences to the families of those who died.

“The Secretary-General stresses the need for Lebanon’s continuing stability,” the spokesperson said. “He encourages all Lebanese parties to strengthen their efforts to date to overcome any emerging challenges on the ground.”