Vote extends UN Syria mission
The UN Security Council voted unanimously today to briefly extend a monitoring mission in Syria for 30 days, keeping alive a key part of international envoy Kofi Annan's faltering plan to end the 16-month conflict that has killed thousands of people.
Despite deep divisions over how to deal with the crisis in Syria, the Security Council backed Mr Annan's peace plan and agreed in April to deploy 300 unarmed observers for an initial 90 days to help implement his six-point strategy to end the fighting.
But the 15-member council has been paralysed when it comes to taking stronger action - including threatening sanctions – against Damascus.
Russia and China have blocked three Western-backed attempts to pressure Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and end the conflict that began as peaceful pro-democracy protests.
US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said today the council has hit a "substantive dead end" on Syria and that Washington was looking outside the world body for ways to tackle the crisis. She described the resolution to extend the UN Syria mission, known as UNSMIS, as simply an exit plan.
With little progress made in the five months since Mr Annan was appointed by the United Nations and the African Union to try to end the Syria crisis, the former UN secretary general had asked the Security Council last week to back up his plan with "clear consequences" for non-compliance by both sides.
He voiced his disappointment with Security Council yesterday, saying it had failed to take "strong and concerted action" on Syria after Russia and China vetoed a resolution that threatened Damascus with sanctions.
A spokesman for Mr Annan declined to comment on the mission's extension.
Russia and China support each other on the Security Council to protect their respective allies from interference. Russia is an ally and major arms supplier to Syria, which is also home to Moscow's only naval base outside the former Soviet Union.
"We hope that the double veto yesterday will not put the Annan plan in peril," Germany's UN ambassador, Peter Wittig, said after the vote.
"It is still the basis for all our efforts to find a diplomatic, political solution to the crisis. With the extension, the mission has another chance - maybe the last chance - to monitor the Annan plan, despite grave risks on the ground," he said.
Mr Annan's plan calls for an end to violence, a Syrian-led political process, access for aid, the release of arbitrarily detained people, freedom of movement for journalists and the freedom to protest peacefully.
The UN monitoring mission is crucial to helping implement the plan.
Today’s resolution says the council would consider a further extension to the mission after 30 days only if the United Nations "confirms the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and a reduction in the level of violence by all sides sufficient" to allow the UN mission in Syria to operate.The mission's 300 unarmed observers,
whose role has been to monitor a failed April 12th ceasefire in Syria brokered by Mr Annan, suspended their activity on June 16th because of increased risk from rising violence. There are also some 100 civilian staff working on a political solution and monitoring rights problems.
Major General Robert Mood, head of the UN monitoring mission, left Damascus yesterday. The mission's mandate had been due to expire at midnight EDT (0400 GMT Saturday).