The Security Council Thursday officially announced it would be ending the UN peacekeeping mission to Syria and withdrawing its military observers from the country by August 19.
Council members agreed to deploy the 300 person UN Supervision Mission to Syria back in April, but ongoing fighting pushed the mission to suspend patrols and regular operations in mid-June. UNSMIS has since been working in a limited capacity, as observers have reportedly been confined to their hotel rooms.
“The Security Council had established two conditions whether to extend or not the presence of UNSMIS in Syria, the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and the reduction in violence by both sides.” Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet told reporter after briefing the Council. “I informed the Council that those two conditions had not been achieved so the mission will come to an end on midnight on Sunday.”
Mulet says UN officials are now working to create a new political liaison office in Damascus to avoid a prolonged gap in the UN presence in Syria. Members of the Security Council have indicated their support for such a measure.
“The conditions to continue the UNSMIS was not fulfilled.But there was also a consensus about keeping a UN presence in Damascus” French Ambassador and President of the Security Council Gerard Araud told reporters Thursday.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin expressed disappointment over the UN mission’s departure, but said he was pleased about the proposed establishment of a new UN presence in Damascus to support a “negotiated and inclusive” political dialogue between the parties.
“We are looking forward to reformatting UN presence in Damascus.” Churkin told reporters.
The Russian envoy also announced that his government had invited members of the United Nations Action Group for Syria to an emergency meeting in New York Friday morning.
Churkin says the international community needs to renew its commitment to a political settlement to the crisis, instead of arming rebels and instigating more fighting. On Thursday he suggested including Assad and opposition allies like Iran and Saudi Arabia in new efforts to mediate a ceasefire and political solution to the violence.