UN mission in 'dangerous' Syria to stay suspended |
Arab News - 27 June, 2012
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the UN Security Council yesterday that the increasing danger in Syria made it impossible for the UN observer mission to consider resuming operations at the moment, a council diplomat said.
"Military operations from both sides (are) still ongoing, civilians in increasing danger," the diplomat told Reuters, summarizing Ladsous' remarks. "Conditions are not conducive to resume operations."
"UNSMIS will seek to assist humanitarian personnel in their access to civilians," he cited Ladsous as saying behind closed doors, referring to the UN observer mission in Syria, known as UNSMIS.
Ladsous also told the 15-nation council that the Syrian government has barred the unarmed UNSMIS monitors from using satellite telephones, the diplomat told Reuters.
"Satellite telephones for UNSMIS (are) still not allowed by (the) Syrian government, key tool to its operations, despite repeated requests," the diplomat said Ladsous told the council.
The head of the UN mission in Syria, Gen. Robert Mood, announced on June 16 that the mission was suspending operations due to the increasing risks to the 300-strong force of military observers, who have been targeted with gunfire and bomb attacks.
"The more violence continues, the more it is difficult for UNSMIS to consider resuming its operations," the diplomat said Ladsous told the council.
International mediator and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's deputy Nasser Al-Kidwa told the council via video link that the situation on the ground in Syria has not improved, with massive human rights violations and more civilians being killed everyday, several diplomats said.
Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said on Monday that at least 15,000 have been killed in President Bashar Assad's assault on an increasingly militarized opposition that is determined to oust him.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told Syria to beware the wrath of Turkey after Friday's shooting down of a warplane and said he had given orders to the armed forces to react to any threat approaching Turkish borders from Syria.
Erdogan's warning to Syria reflected increased tensions not only on the Mediterranean coast, where the aircraft was shot down, but on a long common land border criss-crossed by rebels fighting Assad. Syria said on Sunday it had killed several "terrorists" infiltrating from Turkey.
In Syria itself, Damascus suburbs were gripped by the worst fighting the capital has seen since the uprising against Assad began 16 months ago. The city had long been seen as a bastion of support for the president.
Erdogan, who fell out bitterly with Assad after he dismissed his advice to allow democratic reform, said Turkey was no warmonger.
"Our rational response should not be perceived as weakness, our mild manners do not mean we are a tame lamb," he told a meeting of his parliamentary party. "Everybody should know that Turkey's wrath is just as strong and devastating as its friendship is valuable."
Turkey hosts the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) on its soil, across the border from Syria, and accommodates over 30,000 refugees — a number Erdogan fears could rise sharply as fighting spreads. Rebel soldiers move regularly across the border and defectors muster on Turkish soil.
Fighting has often moved very close to the frontier and could under the new rules of engagement draw Turkish military reaction, especially if Syrian forces pursue rebels.
Clashes between rebels and pro-Assad forces are now occurring daily across Syria.
Violence gripped the suburbs of Damascus yesterday, activists said.
Video published by activists recorded heavy gunfire and explosions. Blood pooled on a sidewalk in the suburb of Qudsiya and a thick blood trail led into a building where one casualty had been dragged. A naked man writhed, his body pierced by shrapnel. The Syrian state news agency SANA said "armed terrorist groups" had blocked the old road from Damascus to Beirut.
"The clashes led to the killing of tens of terrorists, wounding a large number of them, arresting others and seizing their weapons which included RPG launchers, sniper rifles, machineguns and a huge amount of ammunition," the agency said.
The private Turkish Dogan news agency said a convoy of tanks loaded on transporters and armored vehicles headed from the southeastern city of Mardin yesterday toward the town of Nusaybin on Syria's northeastern border. It did not say how many tanks and armored vehicles were in the convoy, but there are frequent movements of troops and armor in the region where Turkish troops are fighting Kurdish separatist rebels.
The Turkish general staff denied reports its forces had been placed on high alert and all leave cancelled. A customs minister said none of Turkey's borders with Syria would be closed.