UN, Syria agree on rules for peace mission

UN, Syria agree on rules for peace mission

Syria and the United Nations on Thursday agreed on a protocol for international observers to monitor a ceasefire as the UN Security Council discussed a proposal to expand the peace mission, dpa reported.

"This agreement outlines the functions of the observers as they fulfil their mandate in Syria and the tasks and responsibilities of the Syrian government in this regard," said Ahmed Fawzi, the spokesman for UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

A small team of half a dozen observers has been in Syria since a week-old ceasefire brokered by Annan went into effect but the truce has failed to bring an end to violence in the most rebellious areas.

At least five people were killed and 19 injured in shelling attacks by government forces in the eastern town of Deir al-Zour and the central province of Homs, activists said.

The 15-member Security Council, where Western nations who want President Bashar al-Assad to step down differ on the Syria crisis with his main allies Russia and China, discussed a proposal to expand the mission to 300 observers in 10 locations for three months.

"I remain deeply concerned about the gravity of the situation in the country," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. "However, without underestimating the serious challenges ahead, an opportunity for progress may now exist, on which we need to build."

"The Syrian government has yet to fully implement its initial obligations regarding the actions and deployment of its troops and heavy weapons, or to return them to barracks," Ban said in a letter to the council on the expanded peace mission.

"Developments since April 12 underline the importance of sending a clear message to the authorities that a cessation of armed violence must be respected in full," Ban said.

Annan's spokesman said the international envoy had discussed with the Syrian opposition the responsibility of the rebels to also respect the ceasefire.

The UN team visited the area of Al-Harak in the southern province of Daraa. The London-based opposition Syrian observatory for Human Rights said the area came under fire from Syrian security forces shortly after the UN team left. It reported no casualties

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the opposition of trying to bury the peace deal to secure military support for their fighters.

"(Rebels) would like to bury the Kofi Annan plan and then call for the creation of buffer zones, security corridors for the military support to the opposition, and maybe for intervention," Lavrov said in Brussels after a meeting with NATO foreign ministers.

Annan's plan also commits Damascus to releasing detainees, allowing access to humanitarian aid and journalists, and starting talks with the opposition.

Around 15 foreign ministers from the Friends of Syria contact group, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, were expected to meet in Paris to discuss the Syrian crisis.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Europe 1 radio in an interview said that the only solution for the crisis was the establishment of a humanitarian corridor that would allow the opposition and rebels to survive.

News from Syria cannot be independently verified as the government has barred most foreign media from the country since the pro-democracy uprising started in March 2011.

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