UN Peacekeeping Chief: Syrian Government, Opposition Groups Must Stop Cease-Fire Violations

Both Syrian government forces and Opposition groups are behind the continued violations of the UN backed truce, says the head of the world body’s peacekeeping operations Herve Ladsous.

Both Syrian government forces and Opposition groups are behind the continued violations of the UN backed truce, says the head of the world body’s peacekeeping operations Herve Ladsous.

“The violations that are observed come from both sides,” Ladsous said in a press conference Tuesday.

Ladsous says observers continue to report the presence of Syrian military armored personnel carriers, Howitzer artillery pieces and other equipment. He says Syrian officials contend the armored personnel carriers have been disarmed but that those claims have yet to be verified.

The UN peacekeeping chief says the mission is still too small to accurately determine the “ratio” of attacks attributed to either sides but expects monitors will be able to provide a fuller assessment once the mission expands in the coming weeks.

“ I think that perhaps now is not the time since we still have a limited number of observers in a limited amount of localities.” he said.” I fully expect this number to increase rapidly over the next two weeks.”

While the UN Security Council approved the deployment of 300 unarmed military observers to Syria for 90 days more than a week ago, UN member states have only so far provided half of the requested personnel.

“We have 150 solid commitments which are already being processed…but we need more from member states, that is clear.”

Only 24 of the peacekeepers committed to the mission are currently in Syria, including members of an initial advance team that deployed April 15.

Syrian officials have repeatedly said they would reserve the right to refuse entry to peacekeepers from countries viewed as hostile to Damascus, a provision that has complicated deployment.

Ladsous said he was aware of at least three instances where visa’s for UN military observers were rejected by Syria officials because the individuals were from countries that participated in the “Friends of Syria” meetings.

Ladsous also said that required training and briefings for peacekeepers would impact the speed of deployment but that he was nevertheless confident the mission could reach its full operational strength by the end of May.

While the mission’s numbers are currently small, Ladsous says observers are already having had an “effective”  impact on the ground.

“Their presence has the potential to change the political dynamics, they help build calm and calm helps with process that Mr. Annan is doing.” he said “The mission has more teams of observers already staying in five locations The capital city Damascus, Homs, Hama, Dar’a and Idlib. In each of these places they reach out to all the parties and they conduct regularly mobile patrols.”

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