Last Updated: Fri Apr 13, 2012 21:17 pm (KSA) 18:17 pm (GMT)

U.N. Security Council plans Friday vote on sending monitors to Syria, Russia objects

Demonstrators, with the Syrian opposition flags, protest against Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad after Friday prayers in Al-Qasseer city, near Homs. (Reuters)
Demonstrators, with the Syrian opposition flags, protest against Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad after Friday prayers in Al-Qasseer city, near Homs. (Reuters)

The U.N. missions of Britain, France and Germany said the Security Council plans to vote on Friday on a draft resolution authorizing the deployment of an advance contingent of unarmed observers to Syria to monitor the country’s fragile ceasefire.

The resolution, obtained by Reuters, was drafted by the United States and is co-sponsored by Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and Morocco. It calls for the initial deployment of up to 30 observers to Syria in line with a request by U.N.-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan.

But Russia’s U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin said the draft resolution proposed “requires a lot of work” and warned that the talks could go on into Saturday.

A diplomat in the negotiations said Russia, the last major ally of President Bashar al-Assad, was “haggling over every phrase” in the draft text.

Russia wants a brief resolution just to get “some boots on the ground,” said Churkin. Russia and China have vetoed two previous resolutions on Syria saying they were unbalanced.

The United States and European powers want specific security guarantees and terms set out to the Syrian government along with a warning of further measures if Assad does not keep to commitments made to Annan.

With the ceasefire hanging by a thread, Annan asked the council on Thursday to urgently approve the observer mission and to call on Assad to keep to all parts of Annan’s six point plan ̶ including the withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from Syrian cities.

Churkin said Britain had originally proposed a “very brief resolution to set the process in motion” while the Security Council works on a full mandate for the monitoring mission.

“Then when we received the draft it was a fairly detailed description of the mandate of the mission. In fact, if you look at the draft I don't know what can be added to it for a full-fledged mandate,” Churkin told reporters.

“We need to have discussions. Certainly, the kind of draft we received, it requires a lot of work,” added Churkin. “It was not in line with our original understanding of doing something quickly today in order to put some people on the ground.”

A Western diplomat in the talks said, however, that “it is clear that this advance team should go with the same mandate as the full observation mission. We cannot accept that they go with weaker rules.”

“We cannot have a resolution that does not include a condemnation of human rights abuses in Syria,” added the diplomat.

The diplomat said that slow progress was being made but added: “No country wants to take the risk of being responsible for the team not being deployed.”

The latest version of the draft, obtained by AFP, called on Syria to “implement visibly” the commitments it made to the U.N.-Arab League envoy.

Meanwhile, the Local Coordination Committees reported on Friday at least 67 ceasefire violations by the Syrian security forces.

Syrian forces shot dead seven protesters after Friday prayers, activists reported, while the government said an army officer also died as violence marred the ceasefire brokered by Annan.

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