UN council approves deployment of monitors to Syria
Russia and China joined the rest of the U.N. Security Council on Saturday to authorize the deployment of up to 30 unarmed observers to Syria to monitor the country’s fragile ceasefire as called for by U.N.-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan.
It is the first resolution the 15-nation council approved since the anti-government uprising in Syriabegan 13 months ago. Moscow and Beijing twice vetoed council resolutions condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s assault on protesters opposed to his rule.
Although Syria’s close ally and arms supplier Russia voted in favor of the resolution, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin made clear that there were limits to the kind of U.N. action Moscow could support.
“Out of respect for the sovereignty of Syria we have cautioned against destructive attempts at external interference or imposing any kind of illusory fixes,” he said.
The resolution had the council “condemning the widespread violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses by armed groups, recalling that those responsible shall be held accountable.”
The resolution calls on “all parties, including the opposition, immediately to cease all armed violence in all its forms.”
It also included a vague warning to Damascus, saying the council would “assess the implementation of this resolution and to consider further steps as appropriate.”
Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said on Friday that the first group of observers were on stand-by and ready to fly to Syria as soon as the council approved their deployment.
Death toll rises in Syria before U.N. vote
Opposition activists said at least six people were killed in Syria on Saturday as the U.N. Security Council tentatively was scheduled to vote to authorize an advance team to monitor a fragile, three-day-old ceasefire.
Activists also reported the first shelling, in the city of Homs, by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, since the U.N.-Arab League-brokered ceasefire took effect.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four people were killed during a funeral march in Aleppo, one by shelling in Homs and a sixth succumbed to wounds inflicted by torture in the central town of Rastan, straddling the Damascus-Aleppo road.
A video, shot in a destroyed part of what the cameraman says is the Homs neighborhood of al-Qarabis, showed two tanks rushing through the streets to the sound of heavy gunfire and explosions.
“Look with your own eyes. Look, world. Watch what they are doing,” the man making the video screams as a tank raises its turret.
The Syrian state news agency SANA said “armed terrorists” killed five people in ambushes around the country on Saturday, and kidnapped a parliamentary candidate from the north.
An army colonel also was kidnapped in the central city of Hama. “Colonel Mohammed Awad’s car was intercepted by a terrorist group and he was kidnapped at gunpoint,” SANA said.
The Syrian government repeatedly has denied access to journalists, making it impossible to verify the reports independently.