posted on Wed 4 Apr 2012 1:35 PM
Syria Draft Presidential Statement

Following a briefing by Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan during consultations on Monday (2 April), Council members have been working on a draft presidential statement on Syria and may meet either later today (4 April) or tomorrow morning to adopt it. During Monday’s briefing, Annan requested Council members to signal the urgency of the Syrian government adhering to the 10 April deadline and to endorse the planning for a UN monitoring mechanism. The draft presidential statement was circulated by the US on Tuesday (3 April) followed by expert-level negotiations that afternoon and deputy permanent representative-level negotiations this afternoon.

It seems the draft presidential statement demands that the Syrian government implement its commitment to withdraw its military from population centres by 10 April. It also calls on the opposition to undertake similar measures within 48 hours of such a withdrawal; calls on all parties to immediately implement a daily two-hour humanitarian pause; and requests the Secretary-General to prepare options for a UN monitoring mechanism.

The draft text also apparently underscores the importance of the immediate implementation of all aspects of the Special Envoy’s six-point plan, in particular a peaceful political settlement of the Syrian crisis. (The six-point plan comprises an inclusive political process, cessation of all violence to be monitored by a UN mechanism, humanitarian access including an immediate daily two-hour humanitarian pause, release of those arbitrarily detained, access for journalists, and the right to peaceful demonstrations.) It seems many Council members believe that it is crucial to move quickly towards political negotiations in order to maintain positive momentum and avoid a prolonged stalemate on the ground.

During Monday’s briefing, Annan reported to Council members that the Syrian government had accepted his six-point proposal and would withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centres by 10 April. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hervé Ladsous provided information on the initial planning DPKO has done in cooperation with Annan’s team for a possible UN mechanism to monitor cessation of violence. The mechanism envisaged appears to be a small, rapidly deployed mission.

While Council members support Annan’s mediation efforts and his six-point plan, many are skeptical that the Syrian government will deliver significant results on the ground by next Tuesday.

Another concern among some Council members appears to be that opposition elements may be too disparate to cohesively cease violence following similar actions by the Syrian government. A further concern appears to be who might represent the opposition in dialogue with the Syrian government. (It seems these concerns were raised during Monday’s consultations. The draft presidential statement apparently includes language calling on the opposition to engage with Annan with respect to its obligation to cease violence within 48 hours of the Syrian government withdrawing its military from population centres.)

While it is too soon to mandate a monitoring mission, it seems the draft presidential statement requests options for a supervision mechanism to be presented as soon as possible. It seems that it also conveys the Council’s readiness to authorise an impartial supervision mechanism upon the cessation of violence. (A small number of experts from DPKO and Annan’s own team have visited Damascus to discuss with the Syrian government, and—where possible—with opposition elements, modalities for such a mission.)

The draft presidential statement also requests Annan to update the Council after the 10 April deadline and indicates that the Council will consider further steps as appropriate. Council members have been hesitant to speculate what the approach to Syria might be if there is no concrete progress within the agreed timeline. It is likely that if the Syrian government does not use the coming week to swiftly implement its commitment to cease violence then a divergence of views on next steps may surface with some Council members seeking a more robust response and others cautioning against too prescriptive an approach.

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