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Ban Calls to Reduce Number of Syria Observers

Ban Ki-moon calls to reduce the number of unarmed military observers in Syria, put more stress on political efforts to end the conflict.
By Elad Benari, Canada
First Publish: 7/7/2012, 1:56 AM

Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon
Reuters

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the UN Security Council on Friday to reduce the number of unarmed military observers in Syria and put more stress on political efforts to end the conflict, AFP reported.

Ban recommended in a report that the mission in Syria with a “reduced military observer component” be redeployed to the capital Damascus, from regional cities where the conflict has grown in recent weeks.

The Security Council must make a decision on the future of the 300 unarmed military observers and more than 120 civilian staff in Syria by July 20.

The UN leader expressed alarm at the “dangerous trajectory of the conflict and the destructive dynamics at play” between the government and opposition, AFP reported.

He said the UNSMIS mandate should remain unchanged, though with the focus shifting from monitoring a ceasefire that has never taken hold toward a more political role.

“If UNSMIS were re-oriented in this manner, the mission would redeploy from the field to the capital to minimize risks, retaining core civilian and military observer capacities to focus on the spectrum of initiatives feeding into the political process,” said the report.

Ban and UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan want the mission to deal more with efforts to persuade the government and opposition to halt the violence, which activists say have left more than 16,500 dead in the past 16 months.

“From a central hub in Damascus, the civilian component would continue liaison and dialogue with opposition and government representatives in the provinces as security conditions allow,” AFP quoted Ban’s report as saying. “A reduced military observer component would support these civilian-led activities with military liaison and, as it does now, conduct visits to incident sites.”

UNSMIS was sent to Syria in April with an initial 90-day mission to support Annan’s peace plan which was never implemented.

UNSMIS suspended its patrols on June 15. Chief Major General Robert Mood announced this week that he was closing observer offices in Hama, Idlib and Tartus, in a move to retrench to regional offices.

Ban said the spiraling violence now exceeds levels that preceded Assad's agreement to cease hostilities, warning that if the security and political conditions in Syria become "untenable," the UN would have to consider closing the mission.

Mood said on Thursday his unarmed observers could not resume their mission due to violence in the country reaching "unprecedented levels."

“The escalation of violence, allow me to say to an unprecedented level, obstructed our ability to observe, verify, report as well as assist in local dialogue,” he said.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)