What's In Blue

Posted Sat 21 Apr 2012

Syria Observer Mission Resolution

It seems that the Council will meet this morning (21 April) at 11 a.m. for a possible vote on a resolution to authorise a UN mission in Syria. Council members met in consultations at permanent representative level late yesterday to negotiate a draft resolution authorising a UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). The draft resolution was sent back to capitals last night for further consideration.

Yesterday morning (20 April) Russia circulated a draft resolution authorising a UN observer mission with a view to adopting on Saturday and called for expert level negotiations at 11 a.m. Soon after, France circulated another draft UNSMIS resolution authored by the P3 plus Germany and Portugal. It appears that this was done so that both drafts would be considered during the expert level negotiations. A revised Russian text emerged from the expert level meeting and this was the document used during the permanent representative negotiations last night.

The aim of both drafts appeared to be to establish a mission composed of 300 unarmed military observers for a period of 90 days in line with the Secretary-General’s 18 April recommendations (S/2012/238). Although both drafts rely largely on language from resolution 2042, there were differences over the conditions required for an UNSMIS deployment, its civilian component and envisioned mandate vis-à-vis the Joint Special Envoy’s six-point plan and the consideration of further measures in the case of non-compliance.

It seems the most contentious issue revolved around the necessary conditions on the ground for UNSMIS to deploy in Syria. The Russian draft did not specify any particular criteria whereas the P3 draft had very specific references to the commitments outlined in resolution 2042—in particular, withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from population centres with a further call for a withdrawal back to barracks. The P3 draft also made deployment subject to the Secretary-General’s assessment that such a withdrawal had been implemented.

It seems the draft resolution that emerged late last night reiterated the commitments as outlined in 2042 and that deployment would be subject to the Secretary-General’s assessment of a sufficient cessation of violence. It seems the call for a return of troops and heavy weapons to barracks is also reflected by using the language from the protocol agreed between the UN and the Syrian government on 19 April.

Another significant issue is the scope of the UNSMIS mandate in supervising the implementation of the six-point plan. (Resolution 2042 expresses the intention to monitor cessation of violence in all forms by all parties and relevant aspects of the six-point plan.) The Russian draft took a very narrow interpretation of resolution 2042 and considered the relevant aspects to be limited to the cessation of violence. However, the P3 draft envisioned a mandate which would have a role in the full implementation of the six-point plan.

The draft resolution which is slated for a vote this morning reflects that UNSMIS would support and monitor the full implementation of the six-point plan. However, the draft has a much more general reference to the requisite civilian capacity to fulfill such a role. (The P3 draft had called for civilian expertise in gender and political, human rights and civil affairs.)

Another important issue for the operational environment of UNSMIS is independent air support. The P3 draft referenced the need for Syria’s rapid agreement to the UN use of independent air assets. (The preliminary protocol agreed between the UN and Syria left this issue to be agreed at a later date.) The draft resolution that emerged last night called for agreement on appropriate air assets.

Russia has been consistently hesitant to define too clearly Syria’s commitments vis-à-vis the six-point plan in a binding resolution or to signal any consequential action in the case of non-compliance. In that regard, a red line for Russia has been any inference by the Council that it may consider punitive measures such as sanctions.

The US, on the other hand, has said that it fully supports the rapid authorisation and deployment of a UN supervision mechanism but that the conditions on the ground must be conducive for an effective mission—in particular the withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from population centres and freedom of access and movement for the advance team, including to vulnerable cities such as Homs. It seems the co-authors of the P3 draft share this view.

The P3 draft indicated that it would like the Council to consider sanctions, in the case of non-compliance by the Syrian government, but this reference is not included in the draft subject to a vote this morning and it appears this issue may not be pushed.

Many Council members are sensitive to the need for a conducive environment on the ground for an effective supervision mechanism. However, they also hold the view that the Joint Special Envoy’s mediation efforts and implementation of the six-point plan are the last and best chance at a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis. In that regard, these members may be more flexible on certain elements of a draft resolution authorising UNSMIS as their aim is to get observers deployed as quickly as possible so as to see a decrease in the level of violence and to have to have an impartial mechanism for reporting back to the Council set up.

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