UN set to deploy 300 cease-fire monitors

UN set to deploy 300 cease-fire monitors

UN set to deploy 300 cease-fire monitors

Syrian army tanks reportedly hidden inside a schoolyard before UN monitors’ arrival. AFP photo

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has decided that the deployment of 300 ceasefire monitors in Syria can start next week, a U.N. spokesman said yesterday, while Syrian troops reportedly killed 28 civilians in the central city of Hama.

Following a U.N. Security Council resolution that allowed the mission, Ban was left to make an “assessment” as to whether it was safe for the monitors to go. “The decision has been taken” and the monitors should start arriving next week deputy U.N. spokesman Eduardo del Buey said, Agence France-Presse reported. “Conditions are risky, but we believe the presence of U.N. observers will change the political dynamics on the ground,” Ahmad Fawzi, spokesman for U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, said. Del Buey said the deployment of 30 advanced monitors “is expected to be completed by the end of April.” Government troops strafed Hama’s Arbaeen neighborhood and its environs with light and heavy machineguns, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Fares Mohamed, an activist in Zabadani, said the observers refused to head to a location to see tanks hidden by the regime.

While the shelling continues, the EU banned the sale of luxury goods and products to Syria that can have military as well as civilian uses, according to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Red Crescent has denied media reports saying that the institution has provided aid to the rebel Free Syrian Army, saying that legal action has been taken against those making the reports. Ahmet Lütfi Akar, the head of the Turkish Red Crescent, said in a statement yesterday that it is possible that someone who received a blanket from the Red Crescent in Turkey could have returned to Syria and been photographed there. The statement accused the reports of hindering the organization’s efforts to provide humanitarian aid, “by slandering the institution.”

NGOs hold talks for two Turkish scribes’ release

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

Two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are involved in international talks to facilitate the return of the two Turkish journalists who went missing in Syria 42 days ago, according to a statement issued by the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). “The release of Syrian civilians in the process of these talks also inspires hope that the two journalists [Hamit Coşkun and Adem Özköse], who are confirmed to be alive and well, could return to Turkey in short order,” IHH said. The IHH and the Association for Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUMDER) said the talks are still underway with Iran and all the parties in Syria. “Two aged Iranian civilians held by the Syrian opposition have been released in consequence of the talks,” said the IHH, adding the two civilians would soon rejoin their families.