UN mulls Syria peacekeeping plan

Diplomats say force of 3,000 troops could be deployed should a ceasefire take hold and pending Security Council mandate.

    UN mulls Syria peacekeeping plan
    Assad's government has told the UN that sanctions against it are hurting children [Reuters]

    The United Nations is planning for a peacekeeping force in Syria should a ceasefire in that country take hold and pending a Security Council mandate, the UN peacekeeping chief has said.

    "I would confirm that, of course, we are giving a lot of thought to what would happen if and when a political solution or at least a cease-fire would emerge,'' Herve Ladsous told reporters on Monday. He said it was too early to say how many peacekeepers might be deployed.

    Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Sunday as part of his push for a ceasefire between rebels and government forces for the Eid al-Adha holiday, which begins on Friday.

    Syria's state-run news agency, SANA, said Assad's government supported the truce proposal but would not commit to halting fire during a the four-day holiday until Western countries and their Gulf allies stop supporting rebels and halt their weapons supplies to the anti-government fighters.

    Brahimi told reporters, following a closed-door meeting, that he also had held talks earlier with opposition groups inside and outside the country and received "promises'' but not a "commitment'' from them to honor the ceasefire.

    Brahimi replaced Kofi Annan as envoy to Syria after the former UN secretary-general resigned last August, frustrated by a lack of progress, failed ceasefire and rejected six-point peace plan.

    Sanctions 'hurting children'

    Other Western nations including the United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Syria which the government claims are harming the country's children.

    In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon written on October 4 but only released on Monday, the government said a bank embargo had hurt the ability to import vaccines, medicine and medical equipment.

    The conflict in Syria, which grew from protests in March 2011 into war, has dragged on for 19 months and killed more than 22,000 people, according to the UN.

    Under Annan, the UN sent a 300-strong unarmed observer mission to Syria to oversee the cessation of violence, but the team was forced to withdraw in August because of escalating fighting which has continued until today. The observer force was itself targeted by gunfire on several occasions and often could not reach the sites of suspected massacres and other violence.

    "It's a shocking fact that everyday 150 to 200 civilians are killed and it has almost become part of the background noise and it is simply unacceptable,'' Ladsous said.

    Diplomats say that Ladsous has told Brahimi he could put together a force of up to 3,000 peacekeepers in the event a longer truce took hold.

    But Ladsous said, "it certainly would be premature to mention a figure because it would depend on the situation".

    The deployment of any UN peacekeeping force would be contingent on the approval of the 15-member Security Council, which has long been deadlocked over the issue of Syria. Permanent members Russia and China have to date
    vetoed three resolutions on Syria because they threatened sanctions against Assad's government.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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