Inside Syria
Syria's shaky truce
With violence continuing amid diplomatic efforts to solve the conflict, can unarmed UN observers end the crisis?
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2012 11:40

The United Nations Security Council has failed to agree on the terms of a resolution that would expand the number of UN ceasefire observers in Syria from 30 to 300.

The conflict between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters has raged on for over a year as part of the wider Arab Spring that swept the region.

"This [truce] is a bit of a charade that has to play itself out. If the Syrian regime were to fully comply with all six points of the UN resolution, it would cease to be the ruling regime in Syria. And they know that. Therefore they are not going to do everything that is called for. 

- Theodore Kattouf, a former US ambassador to Syria

A French diplomatic source at the UN, said the text of the resolution was negotiated over many hours and put to a vote on Saturday.

It authorises the UN mission to monitor the cessation of violence and the support implementation of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan. A ceasefire, instituted a week ago, was marred by reports of both opposition and regime clashes across the country.

The final draft merges two versions - one proposed by Russia, backed by China, and the other by European countries which would have seen 300 military observers and civilian experts initially deployed for three months.

However, there were disagreements over the conditions attached to the mission:

The European draft resolution stressed the importance of a sustained ceasefire before deploying the expanded force but a Russian draft wanted observers sent immediately without any conditions. 

European nations also pushed for imposing sanctions on Syria if it fails to comply with Annan's peace plan whilst there was no mention of sanctions in the Russian version who favour a guarded approach.

"It seems to me, with the Russians and the Chinese backing the Syrian regime in blocking effective action within the UN Security Council, i.e more sanctions or even the possibility down the road of the use of force through international intervention; I think it is necessary that the West allow them to show or not to show what it can do."

- Theodore Kattouf, a former US ambassador to Syria

It also authorised the UN Supervision Mission in Syria to monitor and support full implementation of Annan’s peace plan, with all means possible, including the use of UN planes and helicopters.

Syria had previously expressed concern over having foreign aircraft in its skies.

The Russian draft said the expanded force should only monitor a ceasefire and relevant aspects of the Annan's six-point proposal but it did not mention the use of air power by the UN.

So, is the truce still in effect? What are the chances of having the resolution implemented? And can unarmed observers solve the conflict in Syria?

Inside Syria, with presenter Shakuntala Santhiran, speaks with guests: Theodore Kattouf, a former US ambassador to Syria; Clovis Maksoud, a former Arab League ambassador to the US and UN; and Timor Goksel, a former senior advisor and spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Note: Since the airing of this programme, the UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution that authorises an initial deployment of up to 300 unarmed military observers to Syria for three months to monitor a fragile week-old ceasefire in the country's 13-months conflict.

"Observers are best used as a conflict control mechanism. What I don't really approve of is the way these observers are presented as a last chance, a final chance for peace or the whole thing will collapse. These observers are not going to solve the conflict in Syria - they are there to buy time, to reduce the level of violence and to give whoever is interested a chance to sit down and start a dialogue… they are not going to be doing this by themselves.

They have a very essential role to play but I'm afraid in the end, if it doesn't work out then everyone is going to start blaming these observers for the failure of their mission as they did with the Arab league observers. We should not expect too much, I think we are creating too much expectation."

Timor Goksel, a former senior advisor and spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon



  • The Assad family has been in power for more than 40 years
  • Activists say troops shelled Homs on Friday night despite the ceasefire
  • At least 23 people were killed on Friday, 10 in a roadside bomb attack
  • State TV accuses armed groups of killings despite the truce
  • However, both sides are accused of breaching the ceasefire
  • Activists say about 130 people were killed since the ceasefire began
  • The ceasefire is part of Annan's six-point Syria peace plan 
  • There are already seven observers in Syria monitoring the ceasefire
  • The international community looks at ways of getting aid to Syria
  • The 15-nation UN Security Council held discussions on Friday
  • The European draft wanted sanctions, Russians did not
  • UN Security Council reached a compromise between the two versions 
  • The Russian draft wanted observers sent now, but Europeans want government to withdraw their troops first
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