UN to end mission in Syria

UN to end mission in Syria

'Its too dangerous for observers to stay'

 The UN Security Council meets on Thursday to formally end the UN observer mission in Syria amid entrenched divisions between the major powers over the conflict-stricken country.

Russia and China hit out at western nations over Syria ahead of the meeting, which also comes as UN leader Ban Ki-moon struggles to persuade Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi to become the new international envoy on the conflict.

The mandate of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) ends at midnight on Sunday and the split between the powers means there is no hope of agreeing a renewal, diplomats said.

The best that can be hoped for is that the 15-member council agrees to keep a political liaison office in Damascus to support the efforts of whoever takes over from Kofi Annan as the UN-Arab League envoy on Syria, diplomats said.

The original 300 unarmed observers have already been cut back to 110 because of the intensified violence which forced them to suspend patrols in mid-June. More are expected to leave before the deadline.

“The Security Council is so polarised that I don’t expect any decision in political terms,” said France’s UN ambassador Gerard Araud, the council president for August.

The United States, Britain and France have condemned Russia and China for vetoing three council resolutions that criticized President Bashar al-Assad and would have threatened sanctions over the conflict which has now lasted 17 months.

They say it is too dangerous for the UN observers to stay.
Russia, Syria’s key political backer, and China in turn accuse the western nations of only agitating for the removal of Assad.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Western states of fomenting violence by openly supporting the armed opposition. He called for backing for an agreement made by the international powers in Geneva on June 30 that there should be a political transition in Syria. “What was accomplished in Geneva should not be sabotaged,” Lavrov told reporters in Belarus.