Shatter says UN mission to Syria unlikely
THE GOVERNMENT would consider any request from the United Nations (UN) to send troops to increasingly troubled Syria, Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter has said
However, he cautioned that any peacekeeping or peace enforcement mission was unlikely to be put together in the short term.
He made his comments to The Irish Times after it emerged joint UN and Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was drawing up contingency plans for a 3,000-strong force of European troops for a possible mission to Syria.
Mr Shatter said the fighting in the Middle Eastern state was worsening, with fatalities climbing and the number of refugees fleeing increasing weekly.
He said the violence on the ground would need to cease before a UN mission could be deployed and that such a mission could only travel if it were approved by the UN Security Council and if the regime in Syria was agreeable.
There is considerable doubt as to whether China or Russia, both members of the Security Council with the power of veto, would sanction such a mission.
“There is a full blown civil war going on, so circumstances on the ground would need to substantially change,” Mr Shatter said.
While he was aware there was “thinking” taking place about sending a UN mission, he believed this was a hypothetical contingency plan in the event the nature of the conflict changed substantially .
Irish troops have been suggested in some international media reports as being among a group of nationalities that might be most politically acceptable to the Syrian regime and those it is in conflict with.
However, Mr Shatter said there had been no approach from the UN to the Irish Government. He believed the idea was “a long way” from reaching the stage of even informal approaches taking place.
Mr Brahimi, a 78-year-old veteran international diplomat from Algeria, took over as special envoy to Syria after Kofi Annan stood aside in August. His contingency plan to send a UN mission to Syria emerged during a visit this weekend to Istanbul, to ease growing tensions between Turkey and Syria.
He is believed to favour creating a UN peacekeeping or peace enforcement mission made up of troops from nations seen as politically non-contentious rather than sending British or US troops.
Those most likely to be approached first are the nations currently contributing troops to Unifil – the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. Contributing nations include Ireland, Italy, Spain, Finland, France and Germany.