The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously authorized the deployment of up to 30 unarmed observers to Syria to monitor the country’s fragile ceasefire.
Russia and China joined the other 13 council members and voted in favor of the Western-Arab draft resolution. Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, however, made clear that there were limits to the kind of U.N. action Moscow could support.
“Out of respect for the sovereignty of Syria we have cautioned against destructive attempts at external interference or imposing any kind of illusory fixes,” he said.
The resolution passed through after Russia showed its satisfaction with the latest version of the draft.
“Having reported to our capital we are now satisfied we can vote on the resolution,” Churkin told reporters on Saturday.
Russia had strong reservations about the wording of the Western-drafted resolution during two days of intense negotiations on the resolution which will allow an advanced party of up to 30 unarmed monitors to go to Syria this week.
But a new version produced by the United States was sent to the other 14 members of the Council late Friday, which the Russian government approved.
The Security Council condemned “widespread violation of human rights” by the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and abuses by “armed groups” in the same time.
The council said that it will consider “further steps” if Syria does not end the violence against protesters and comply with the resolution.
Speedy dispatch of monitors
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and peace envoy Kofi Annan are committed to dispatching observers to Syria “as quickly as possible” following a Security Council resolution paving the way for the mission, a UN statement said Saturday.
“The Secretary General and the Joint Special Envoy welcomed the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2042 to authorize the dispatch of the advance team of U.N. observers to Syria and they committed to do their best to deploy the team as quickly as possible,” said the statement.
The first five or six U.N. ceasefire monitors will be in Syria on Sunday, a U.N. peacekeeping spokesman told AFP.
“Immediately the Security Council passed the resolution today we had five or six military observers getting on a plane. They will arrive in Syria probably tomorrow,” U.N. peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer said. The U.N. Council approved sending a 30-person advanced mission to monitor the ceasefire established Thursday.
On Saturday, the Syrian troops shelled two rebel-held neighborhoods in the central city of Homs on Saturday in an apparent violation of an internationally brokered cease-fire, activists said.
The Local Coordination Committees activist group reported that at least 20 people were killed and most of them were in Homs and Aleppo.
The reported bombardment came as the United Nations Security Council was preparing to vote on the resolution.
Since the truce brokered by Annan came into effect, far fewer deaths have been reported than from the daily norm of clashes and shelling before the truce.
The regime restricts access of foreign observers, including journalists, making it difficult to verify reports of violence independently.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the shelling on Saturday morning in Homs lasted for about an hour and there were no reports of casualties. It said another wave of mortar rounds hit the neighborhoods later in the day.
Activist Tarek Badrakhan, who is based in the rebel-held Homs neighborhood of Khaldiyeh, and the Observatory said the shelling targeted the neighborhoods of Jouret el-Shayah and Qarabees.
In Homs, which has been one of the hardest hit areas in Syria in the past 13 months and became the symbol of Syria's uprising, the sporadic shelling started Friday night and continued into Saturday morning, Badrakhan said.
A video posted by activist online said to be taken in Homs showed shells landing in a heavily damaged street.
The Local Coordination Committees said troops fired live bullets and tear gas at a funeral in the northern city of Aleppo. It had no word on casualties. The Observatory said three people were wounded in the shooting at the funeral.
Also, troops were conducting a wave of arrests in the Damascus suburb of Dumair when a car exploded killing one civilian and wounding two others, the Observatory said. It gave no further details.