The agreement marks a public show of unity among the United Nations’s fractious big powers in support of U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan for ending 13 months of deadly upheaval and clearing the way for a political settlement between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and a diverse array of armed and civilian opponents. The Security Council resolution authorizes the new mission for an initial 90 days but does not include a timetable for its deployment, leaving that decision to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
After the vote, Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that although the Obama administration supports the move, there should be “no illusions” that a small mission of U.N. observers will necessarily be capable of halting the Syrian crackdown and that the United States is prepared to pull the plug on it after 90 days if Syria does not comply with Annan’s peace plan.
“We are sober about the risks, all the more given the Assad regime’s long record of broken promise, deceit and disregard for the most basic human standards,” she said. “Let there be no doubt that we, our allies, and others in this body are planning and preparing for those actions that will be required of all of us if the Assad regime persists in the slaughter of the Syrian people.”
Syria’s U.N. ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, said that the United States and its European and Arab allies were seeking to undermine the U.N.-brokered peace process and that their public expressions of doubt about its prospects for success were emboldening the Syrian opposition to continue fighting. The opposition’s foreign supporters, Jaafari told the council, must “cease to fund, arm and train the armed groups and desist from encouraging them to continue their terrorist actions.”
Meanwhile, members of the small advance team of observers visited Homs, where residents reported that the military had halted its artillery bombardment for the first time in more than a week. Cellphone coverage also returned for the first time in months, but amateur video footage of the observers driving and walking through Homs neighborhoods indicated gunfire near one patrol.
According to Ban, the Syrian government, which is responsible for the observers’ safety, had previously prevented the team from visiting Homs, citing security reasons. In one video shot Saturday by activists in the suburb of Khalidiyeh, which has seen fierce fighting in recent months and been heavily shelled by government forces, a weeping woman bangs on the window of the U.N.-marked vehicle, trying to pass the observers a letter.