U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon informed the U.N. Security Council on Friday afternoon that the U.N. monitoring mission in Syria will be up to full strength next week, but that Syrian forces continue to shell Syrian towns and that "most elements" of the U.N. six-point peace plan have yet to be implemented.
In a 13-page report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban said that the U.N. initiative -- shepherded by former Secretary General Kofi Annan -- offers the best hope of avoiding a full scale civil war. But he also voiced "grave concern" about the risks of deepening violence that may require the Security Council to consider the viability of U.N.'s ongoing presence in Syria.
Ban said that Annan, who is serving as the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria is preparing to travel to Damascus again in an effort to press President Bashar al-Assad, opposition leaders, and others to fulfill their obligations under his peace plan. Here are some key takeaways from Ban's report:
- The deployment of the military component [of the U.N. Supervision] Mission in Syria [UNSMIS] is essentially completed...
- There has been some reduction in the intensity of fighting in areas where UNSMIS has established its presence. The engagement of observers at local level appears to be having a calming effect.... That said, the overall level of violence in the country remains quite high.
- There continues to be daily violent incidents across the country, leading to a large number of deaths and injuries, albeit at a lower scale than immediately before 12 April 2012. The Syrian army has not ceased the use of or pulled back their heavy weapons in many areas.
- The size and complexity of the country, the range of potential violations, the differing local contexts, and the precarious security situation make it difficult to gain a full and complete picture of the situation on the ground.
- On several occasions, UNSMIS has heard the sound or seen evidence of shelling in population centres.
- The Government reportedly continues to receive military equipment and ammunition from other countries, and there are also reports of weapons being sent to the opposition forces.
- UNSMIS has reported that opposition representative relate an on-going fear of reprisals for talking to UNSMIS, which is a matter of serious concern.
- The frustration of the local population has taken the form of threats against UNSMIS observers, damage to vehicles and restrictions of movements by the crowd.
- There has been an increase in the number of bombings, most notably in Damascus, Hama, Aleppo, Idlib and Deir-Ez-Zor.... The sophistication and size of the bombs point to a high level of expertise which may indicate the involvement of established terrorist groups.
- There are continuing reports of a stepped up security crackdown by the authorities that has led to massive violations of human rights by Government forces and pro-Government militias.... There are also reports of human rights violations by the opposition, on a lesser scale, but including instances of arbitrary detention and summary executions...
- There are continuing reports that thousands of Syrians are being detained in a network of government-run facilities.... The pace and scale of access to, and release of, detainees is unacceptable...
- The obligation of the Syrian government to respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully is clearly not being observed.
- There is growing impatience with the status quo but also a lack of confidence in the possibility of genuine transformation....While many fear the implications of a further militarization of the conflict, some have doubts that peaceful change is possible.
- Most elements of the six-point plan have not been implemented.
- [The deepening violence and insecurity] is a source of grave concern, and underscores the need to carefully consider the United Nations presence and next steps...
- Encouragement to any party in Syria to pursue objectives through the use of violence is inconsistent with our common effort. Those who may contemplate supporting any side with weapons, military training or other military assistance, must reconsider such option to enable a sustained cessation of all forms of violence.
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Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.