UN chief says Syria is failing to adhere to peace plan
BEIRUT — The secretary-general of the United Nations gave a dark appraisal of the Syria conflict Thursday, accusing its government of failing to carry out nearly every element of the peace plan that took effect a week ago, obstructing work by an advance team of cease-fire monitors and doing nothing to alleviate an intensifying humanitarian crisis on the ground.
The appraisal, made at the United Nations by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, came as new pressure on the Syria government was looming from Paris, where U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, attending a meeting of the Friends of Syria coalition of countries seeking to aid the Syrian opposition, called for a new Security Council resolution to enforce sanctions on President Bashar Assad’s government.
In her remarks, Clinton acknowledged such a resolution was likely to be vetoed by Russia, a staunch supporter of Assad, but that even Russia had recognized “that we are not in a static situation but a deteriorating one.”
She also hinted at a possible NATO role in the conflict because of Syrian shelling last week across the border into Turkey, a NATO member, where thousands of Syrian refugees and armed anti-Assad groups have sought sanctuary. She said Turkey had discussed such an option at a NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels this week. Under an article in the NATO treaty, an attack on one member can be construed to be an attack on all.
In a statement from the Paris meeting, the Friends of Syria group, which includes the United States, France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, said if the peace plan failed, “the U.N. Security Council and international community would have to look at other options.”
The developments amounted to a ramping up of rhetoric aimed at pressuring Assad, but it was unclear if it would force him to change his behavior in seeking to crush his opponents in the conflict, in which more than 9,000 people have been killed.
Ban said an initial lull in violence between Syrian forces and anti-government fighters had all but disappeared. Nonetheless, Ban told reporters at the United Nations that he had recommended that the Security Council authorize sending up to 300 military observers to Syria to act as cease-fire monitors.
He also said the Syrian authorities had assured him that these observers would have freedom of movement throughout all areas of the country affected by the 13-month-old uprising against Assad.
“For the mission to succeed, we require the Syrian government’s full cooperation, particularly in ensuring the full freedom of movement and unfettered access and safety and security of personnel, as well as the use of key enabling assets such as helicopters and other transportation,” Ban said.
But he also said the issue of transportation, as well as the nationalities of the cease-fire observers themselves, had not yet been resolved with the Syrian government.