'Syria needs peacekeepers not military forces'
Nicosia (Cyprus): The international community should deploy a peacekeeping force, instead of the UN's existing, beleaguered observer mission, to help end the killing in Syria, the secretary general of the Arab League said on Tuesday.
The appeal could have a rough time getting past Syria's stalwart UN allies Russia and China.
Nabil Elaraby's comments came as activists said Syrian forces had renewed shelling the city of Homs, the latest move in Syrian President Bashar Assad's crackdown on an increasingly armed popular uprising. The opposition says more than 14,000 people have died since the uprising began in March 2011, including more than 3,400 security forces.
UN observers in Syria are charged with checking compliance with a cease-fire that was supposed to go into effect on April 12 but has not taken hold. On Sunday, mission head Maj Gen Robert Mood demanded that the warring parties allow the evacuation of women, children, the elderly and those who are sick.
The Arab League chief argued that it was time for a change in the UN mandate and a new type of mission.
"And by that I mean a peacekeeping force and not a military force," Elaraby said during a visit to Cyprus. "When there are two parties that have (resorted) to fighting, you cannot have someone just observing unless they both accept (a settlement). So what you need is someone who can impose a ceasefire and not to fight."
Elaraby said forces deployed in war zones under a peacekeeping mandate have shown in the past to be an effective tool in quelling violence, adding that he has already asked that the observer mission's mandate be amended.
Peacekeeping missions can vary widely depending on the contours of their mandate, but generally speaking, they differ from observer missions in that peacekeepers are armed and have the ability to enforce a cease-fire instead of merely watching whether it is being adhered to.