Through the Wire

UN Says New Syria Observers Ready as China, Russia Back Mission

April 20, 2012
| Security
| Middle East and North Africa

April 20 (Bloomberg) -- The United Nations said it’s ready to send more observers to Syria in a week to help monitor implementation of a cease-fire agreement, as Russia and China voiced support for the mission.

The seven observers already in the country will be expanded to 30, Al Arabiya television reported, citing Ahmad Fawzi, an aide to UN envoy Kofi Annan, who brokered a truce this month between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and opposition groups fighting to overthrow him. The UN will be ready for rapid deployment of a larger group of 300 monitors when the Security Council approves their dispatch, he said.

The cease-fire took effect on April 12 under Annan’s six- point plan to end a conflict that the UN estimates has killed more than 9,000 people since March last year. Both sides have accused the other of breaking it.

Syrian security forces shot and killed an activist in the northern province of Idlib today, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mail. Al Jazeera television showed footage of artillery attacks in the central province of Homs. While the daily death toll has fallen since the truce, dozens of killings are still reported most days.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the Security Council to pass a resolution as quickly as possible authorizing a full-scale observer mission, Interfax news agency reported. China is willing to send personnel to join the UN observer team, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in Beijing today.

‘Escalating Violence’

Russia has counted Syria as an ally since the Soviet era, and together with China has blocked U.S.-led efforts to get tougher measures against Assad approved by the Security Council.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday that there are signs in recent days that the cease-fire is fraying, with “reports of renewed and escalating violence, including the shelling of civilian areas, grave abuses by government forces, and attacks by armed groups.”

The U.S., which along with European and Arab allies is backing the Syrian rebels, is considering working with Turkey to set up an “assistance hub” on the Turkish-Syrian border to coordinate aid for opposition groups, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Paris yesterday.

--With assistance from William Bi in Beijing, Torrey Clark in Moscow, Fiona MacDonald in Kuwait and Flavia Krause-Jackson at the United Nations. Editors: Ben Holland, Heather Langan.

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