Thu, August 16, 2012
World

UN Security Council okays establishment of new civilian office in Damascus

2012-08-16 17:41:57 GMT2012-08-17 01:41:57(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Thursday said that it agrees to the establishment of a new civilian office in the Syrian capital Damascus to back the efforts of the UN and the Arab League to bring an early end to the 17- month crisis in Syria.

The French permanent representative to the United Nations, Gerad Araud, who holds the rotating Security Council presidency for August, made the announcement to reporters here after a two- hour closed-door meeting of the 15-nation UN body.

"I sent a letter to the secretary-general to tell him that we took note of his letter," Araud said. "In fact, we agree to his proposal of creating a liaison office in Damascus."

In his letter sent to the Security Council last Friday, UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon proposed to set up a civilian office in the Syrian capital. Ban's proposal indicates his intention to maintain a UN presence in Syria at a time when the conflict is still going on in the Middle East country.

The Security Council meeting came as Ban warned in his letter that Syria now risks "a descent into a full-scale civil war."

Ban said that "it is imperative for the United Nations to have a presence in Syria," to undertake humanitarian operations and support efforts by the UN and the Arab League "in mediating and facilitating a peaceful resolution to the crisis."

"I intend therefore to work in the immediate future towards establishing an effective and flexible United Nations presence in Syria that will support our efforts with the parties to end hostilities," the UN chief added.

The new UN liaison office in Damascus is expected to support the track of political settlement to the Syrian crisis, including providing support for whoever takes over from Kofi Annan as the special envoy of the UN and the Arab League for Syria, diplomats here told Xinhua.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria ( UNSMIS) will end its mandate at midnight Sunday.

"The conditions to continue UNSMIS were not fulfilled," Araud said.

The Security Council had set two conditions for a possible extension of the UN mission in Syria, which was authorized to monitor the implementation of a six-point peace plan brokered by Annan. The conditions included a halt to the government's use of heavy weapons and a significant reduction in violence.

Also after the Council meeting, Vitaly Churkin, the Russian permanent representative to the UN, said that the five permanent Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- and key regional players will meet on the Syrian crisis on Friday at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Churkin said he regretted that the UN observer mission will end.

Meanwhile, Edmond Mulet, the UN assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, told reporters that contingency plans by the present mission in Syria call for the military observers to leave the country by the end of its mandate, which falls on Aug. 19.

However, he added that civilian members of the UNSMIS were being interviewed to determine which, if any, of them would be willing to stay on after Sunday and work in the new political office.

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