Syria readies for bigger UN mission
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (L) shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing April 18. The head of a UN team in Syria says that two dozen monitors are expected to arrive. Reuters/ China DailyA protocol allowing for the U.N. observer mission to Syria to oversee the fragile cease-fire is nearly finalized, a Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman said yesterday, as forces shelled rebel areas, despite the U.N. advance team’s presence.
“We are about to finalize it,” Jihad Makdisi said, referring to the document that will pave the way for U.N. observers to fan across the country to monitor a truce, Agence France-Presse reported. “Discussions with [an advance team of] U.N. observers have been constructive and both parties agree on 90 percent of the points,” he said. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem insisted yesterday that Syria was keeping up its commitments. Syria will “continue to cooperate” with Annan’s efforts, the Chinese Foreign Ministry quoted Muallem as saying after he met with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing, The Associated Press reported.
‘More monitors to arrive’
U.N. peacekeepers in blue berets toured towns near Damascus yesterday with a Syrian police escort. The head of the team, Col. Ahmed Himiche, said yesterday that he expected an additional two dozen monitors to arrive in Syria by today. The team is to be reinforced in the longer term with up to 250 more personnel, which will require a U.N. resolution. “Syria is ready to make its air force available for the use of this delegation,” Muallem said. “Helicopters are needed to evacuate the injured. If that is the issue, then we have the capabilities in our air force to carry this out.”Although the number of casualties and the violence has eased since the cease-fire, clashes between rebel troops and government forces are still continuing in various parts of the country. Explosions rocked the battered Khalidiyah quarter of Homs, killing at least two civilians as the army resumed heavy mortar shelling, with plumes of black smoke drifting over the rooftops. SANA reported that six soldiers had been killed and 11 wounded in a blast in Idlib province, while a second explosion in the Aleppo region killed four security forces and a civilian.