Saturday

19th Oct 2019

EU keen to send in UN monitors as fighting halts in Syria

EU countries are keen for a UN monitoring mission to go to Syria as fast as possible amid reports that fighting stopped at dawn on Thursday (12 April).

French foreign minister Alain Juppe told press at a meeting of G8 countries in Washington late on Wednesday that: "France wants the [UN] Security Council to adopt a resolution as quickly as possible to send a robust monitoring force on the ground ... to verify the reality of commitments undertaken by all parties [in the conflict]."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • A 'robust' force would need its own vehicles and bodyguards, a secure base and communications equipment plus special investigators (Photo: wikipedia)

He noted that: "We are in agreement on this point with [Russian foreign minister] Sergey Lavrov, which is a very positive element."

His remarks were echoed by UK foreign minister William Hague, who said monitors are needed "to make sure [Syria] can't slide back to renewed conflict."

The ceasefire was brokered by UN envoy Kofi Annan as part of a six point plan, which also calls for the release of prisoners; access for aid workers and press; free rein for anti-government protests; and a "Syrian-led" process to address President Bashar Assad's political future.

The UN has already drafted plans for 250 unarmed monitors to go in, drawing on blue helmets currently deployed in UN missions in Jerusalem and on the Israel-Lebanon and Israel-Syria borders.

A "robust" force in Juppe's terms would require monitors to have their own armoured vehicles and bodyguards so that they could move around freely, an independent base with secure communications equipment and access to drone and satellite intelligence.

For its part, Russia has warned the biggest threat to peace comes from rebels.

"The Syrian government has declared it will cease fire as of 6am on 12 April. Now it's up to the armed opposition," its deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov tweeted on Wednesday. The rebels themselves have predicted people will march en masse on Assad's palace the moment they see tanks pull back.

The EU has in recent months castigated Russia for blocking a UN Security Council resolution calling on Assad to halt violence.

But behind the scenes, EU security specialists have relied on Russian intelligence to assess what is going on inside the country. "The Russians are the only ones who have the full picture. They tell us that the rebel forces have killed as many as 3,000 government supporters in recent months," one EU contact told EUobserver in March, citing EU fears of a bloody civil war if Assad falls.

EU and US leaders have also declared that Assad is no longer the legitimate leader of Syria and should step down immediately.

But one analyst noted that despite its rhetoric, the West is happy for him to stay in power so long as bloodshed ends because it fears the Sunni Muslim opposition is a threat to Israeli and Lebanese security and to the safety of Christians in Syria.

"They have no alternative to Assad. The fact that the last round of [EU] sanctions boiled down to stopping his wife from shopping in Paris shows that they are not serious about bringing him down," Robert Baer, a former CIA officer in Lebanon and Syria, told this website.

An EU diplomat noted that Assad has gone too far to ever mend relations with the West. "He has systematically killed over 10,000 people ... This is not like Andijan. Nobody in the EU will ever shake his hand again," he said.

Uzbek leader Islam Karimov's soldiers killed up to 5,000 people in the town of Andijan in 2005. But a few years later the EU dropped sanctions and welcomed him back in Brussels due to Uzbekistan's strategic importance.

Assad's father, Hafez Assad, massacred between 10,000 and 40,000 people in the town of Hama in 1982. But in the 1990s he was back on the red carpet in Paris shaking hands with the then French leader Jacques Chirac.

Russia: EU and US want war with Syria

Russia has accused Nato countries of trying to start a war with Syria and foment unrest in Iran - claims backed up by some Western security analysts.

Former CIA officer questions EU motives in Syria

EU and US intervention in Syria is designed to harm Iran and to protect Israel and Lebanese Christians, not Syrian people, according to Robert Baer, a retired CIA officer with experience of the region.

News in Brief

  1. Macron: Nato's inability to react to Turkey a 'mistake'
  2. EU: US can expect counter measures after tariff move
  3. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  4. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  5. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  6. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  7. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  8. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us