Briefing and Consultations on UN Mission in Syria
Tomorrow afternoon (2 August), the Council will hear from peacekeeping head Hervé Ladsous in a public briefing on the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), to be followed by informal consultations. Ladsous visited Syria in late July and his briefing is likely to focus on an assessment of the security situation there. Council members are also expecting to hear some preliminary recommendations for the future of UNSMIS. (Resolution 2059—which renewed the UNSMIS mandate for a final period of 30 days—conditioned any further renewal on the cessation of the use of heavy weapons by the government and a reduction in violence by all sides.) At press time, the briefing was still slated to be heard in the Council chamber making this the first public briefing on UNSMIS. However, it seems some disagreement remains amongst Council members over whether the briefing should be public or private in consultations.
Council members will be keen to know whether there has been or will be further change to the UNSMIS configuration since the announcement in late July regarding the drawdown of half of the 300 authorised military observers.
In addition, Council members are likely to be interested in an assessment of the security situation in Syria, in particular in Aleppo where there has been fighting between government and rebel forces since 20 July. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) head Valerie Amos reported on 29 July that 200,000 people had fled the city. Today (1 August) UNSMIS confirmed the use of fighter jets over Aleppo and expressed concern over the significant increase in the level of violence over the last 72 hours. On 30 July, acting UNSMIS head Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye (Senegal) said observers in Aleppo had reported the use of helicopters, tanks and artillery. Gaye also visited Homs on 29 July where he witnessed heavy shelling from artillery and mortars.
It seems possible that during tomorrow’s consultations members may also want to hear more about the proposal from Paris that France, as President of the Security Council in August, would organise a ministerial-level meeting on Syria in response to the intense fighting in Aleppo and to prepare for a political transition in Syria. Apparently there is also interest on focusing on the humanitarian situation. However, it is unclear whether there is sufficient support among Council members to convene such a high-level meeting before the Council takes its next steps on UNSMIS. There is also a sense that it may be too soon after the 19 July veto by China and Russia of a draft resolution (S/2012/538) renewing UNSMIS for 45 days and threatening sanctions if the Syrian government did not cease the use of heavy weapons and withdraw from population centres within ten days. (Pakistan and South Africa abstained with the remaining 11 members of the Council voting in favour. It was the third time China and Russia exercised their veto power on the Syrian issue since the crisis began in March 2011.)
Council members continue to be unanimous in their concern about the devastating level of violence in Syria but remain deadlocked on an approach to the situation. Few members believe there will be sufficient improvement in the coming weeks to meet the conditions set out in resolution 2059 for a further renewal. Given the stalemate, it appears that active management of the Syrian crisis may move out of the Council. The General Assembly is currently scheduled to vote this week on a draft resolution circulated by the Arab Group which contains strong language on the Council’s failure to agree on measures to ensure Syria’s compliance with Council decisions and calling for a political transition in Syria.
At press time it was unclear if UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan would brief in August and whether the UNSMIS mandate would be renewed for a further period. The only other scheduled meeting on Syria at press time appears to be UNSMIS consultations on 16 August. The mission’s mandate expires on 19 August.
For more details please see Security Council Report’s Syria brief in its August 2012 Monthly Forecast.
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