'UN mission in Syria should work for political solution'
New York: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended to the Security Council that its mission in Syria should work towards securing a political solution to the crisis that has killed thousands, rather than monitoring an unsuccessful ceasefire.
In his 25-page report to the 15-nation Council, Ban said the mission in Syria be redeployed with a "reduced military observer component" to Damascus from regional cities.
The mandate of the UN Mission in Syria, which was first authorised by the Security Council in April, expires on July 20.
The Council is scheduled to start discussing the issue on July 11 and is due to vote on July 18.
Ban recommends that the focus of the mission's work shift from military observers to a civilian staff that stresses on a political solution and issues like human rights.
"If UNSMIS were re-oriented in this manner, the mission would redeploy from the field to the capital to minimise risks, retaining core civilian and military observer capacities to focus on the spectrum of initiatives feeding into the political process," the report said.
"A reduced military observer component would support these civilian-led activities with military liaison and, as it does now, conduct visits to incident sites to conduct fact-finding and verification tasks," the report added.
The activities of the UN monitors was suspended on June 16 because of increased risk amid escalating violence.
Ban said advantage should be taken of the relationships that have been established by the monitors with Syrians to "seize opportunities to foster dialogue, to broker local-level agreements to calm tensions and promote cease-fires between the sides, and to deepen engagement where possible, as steps toward confidence-building and stability where signals from the sides encourage such measures."
With such a change, he said, "the Mission would redeploy from the field to the capital to minimise risks" and would "focus on the spectrum of initiatives feeding into the political process."
The UNSC had ordered in April the deployment of up to 300
unarmed military observers to Syria to oversee the ceasefire, which has however remained non-existent.
Escalating violence in cities has claimed the lives of thousands of Syrians.
Among the other options presented by Ban is withdrawing the mission altogether, expanding the number of military observers or adding an armed protection force.
He however added that a complete withdrawal would "signal a loss of confidence in an early return to a sustainable cessation of violence and remove the sole source of independent monitoring of the six-point plan implementation on the ground."
"It would likely precipitate a further blow to efforts to stabilise the situation on the ground, and render the prospect of a negotiated Syrian-led transition, as laid out by the Action Group, more difficult," he added.
Former UN Chief Kofi Annan had outlined a six-point peace proposal that had called for an end to fighting by government security forces and rebels, withdrawal of heavy weapons from towns, humanitarian access and dialogue between the government and opposition aimed at a "political transition" for the country.
"The six-point plan initially provided a mechanism to assist parties in de-escalating the conflict. Regrettably, it has not been implemented in any meaningful way," Ban said in his report.
"As of now, the Government of Syria and the armed opposition both appear to have chosen to pursue a military response to the current conflict, narrowing the space for comprehensive dialogue between the parties on what the future of their country should look like and how it can be achieved," he said.