UN Pulls Plug On Syria Observer Mission

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Major-General Robert Mood and U.N. – Arab League joint special envoy for Syria Kofi Annan arrive at a Damscus hotel to address reporters in this June 22 photo. Mood stepped down as head of UNSMIS in July and Annan announced his resignation earlier this month citing lack of unity in the Security Council. (credit: UN Photo)

Aug. 17, 2012 – France’s envoy to the United Nations on Thursday confirmed that the mandate for the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) will not be renewed when it expires on August 19 and a smaller political liaison office will take its place.

The 300-strong unarmed observer force was deployed in late April to monitor a ceasefire that never took hold and suspended its activities on June 15 due to escalating violence.

“The conditions to continue UNSMIS was not fulfilled, but there was also a consensus (in the Security Council) about the need for keeping a U.N. presence in Damascus,” said Amb. Gerard Araud, president of the council for August.

That presence will consist of small office, some 20-30 people, which will include a human rights component, military advisers, and a demining team. Control of the office will shift from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to the Department of Political Affairs, said Edmund Mulet, deputy head of U.N. peacekeeping.

On Wednesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the death toll in Syria after 18 months of violence is now “more than 18,000.”

– Denis Fitzgerald