What's In Blue

Syria Consultations Ahead of Mission Mandate Expiry

Tomorrow morning (16 August), in consultations, Council members will hear from Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Edmond Mulet on the situation in Syria. Mulet is likely to focus on an assessment of the security situation and the implications for the mandate of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) which expires this Sunday (19 August). Council members are hoping for more concrete recommendations for the mission’s future. (The mission has been unable to exercise its key monitoring functions since 15 June.)

In this regard, Council members are likely to want to follow-up the Secretary-General’s 10 August letter (S/2012/618) which confirmed that the two conditions outlined in resolution 2059 for a further renewal—cessation of the use of heavy weapons and a reduction in violence by all sides—had not been achieved. At press time, there were strong indications that the observer mission would not be renewed.

The Secretary-General’s letter also highlighted the need to plan for a flexible UN presence in Syria allowing the UN to continue to play a reporting role, facilitate the political track between stakeholders and provide support to Kofi Annan’s successor as the UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy.

Another issue that may come up during tomorrow’s briefing is that of Annan’s successor. On 2 August, Annan announced his resignation as Special Envoy citing a lack of unified support from the Security Council. At press time it seemed the most likely successor for Annan’s post was Lakhdar Brahimi of Algeria. However, media reports indicate that Brahimi wants an endorsement from the Security Council before agreeing to take on the position. It appears he sees this as a crucial condition if his efforts as a mediator are to succeed.

Apparently Brahimi’s concern is over the deadlock in the Council over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s fate in any political transition and how this would affect his ability to effectively mediate. It is possible that Brahimi may want a clear mandate from the Council to approach the issue of political transition without any preconditions. However, the P3 are keen to have this issue dealt with outside of the Council while Russia and China would likely be supportive of such an approach. Most Council members are of the view that the fundamental dynamics around the issue of regime change are unlikely to shift.

It seems possible that if Brahimi accepts the post the Council might issue a statement welcoming his appointment and reiterating support for the six-point plan and the 30 June Action Group communiqué.

Aware that UNSMIS has not been able to fulfil its key roles, most Council members agree with the Secretary-General’s assessment and support his idea of maintaining a UN presence in Syria. (This would be managed through the Secretariat and does not require a resolution.) Even if UNSMIS is not renewed the relevant provisions of resolution 2043 reaffirming support for the implementation of the six-point plan remain and the Council will continue to follow the issue closely through regular briefings.

Tomorrow’s consultations will take place against a backdrop of escalating violence and militarisation of the situation in Syria. This morning Russia circulated a draft press statement responding to today’s bombing in Damascus near a hotel housing UNSMIS personnel and several military buildings. Russia’s draft was under silence procedure until 12.30 p.m. today but several Council members broke silence. It was unclear at press time if agreement could be reached on such a statement.

At press time, the other scheduled meeting on Syria was a 30 August “Middle East” briefing, possibly at ministerial level, that Council president France has initiated. It appears that the focus of this meeting could be the humanitarian situation in Syria but Council members have yet to agree on the details.

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