UN, Syrian authorities reach initial agreement

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pretoria - The United Nations and the Syrian Government have concluded an agreement that is intended to form the basis of a protocol that will govern the work of an advanced team of observers.

The agreement will also govern upon its deployment, the UN Supervision Mechanism monitoring the cessation of violence and the implementation of the plan designed to resolve the crisis in the Middle Eastern country.

"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," the spokesperson for the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States for Syria, Kofi Annan, said in a statement issued in Damascus on Thursday.

He said the office of the joint special envoy was in similar discussions with representatives of the opposition on the tasks and responsibilities of the armed opposition groups.

Annan submitted a six-point peace plan during a visit to Damascus in March. It seeks to stop the violence and the killing, give access to humanitarian agencies, release detainees, and kick-start an inclusive political dialogue.

"An effective observer team on the ground is vital if the lives of ordinary Syrian families are to slowly return to normal," the statement said, noting that it was the reason that Annan had made the cessation of violence by all parties, under an effective supervision mechanism, the essential first step in his plan.

"The hard part lies ahead, a truly Syrian-led and -owned political dialogue to address the legitimate concerns and aspirations of the Syrian people."

On Saturday, the Security Council authorised the deployment of an advance team of 30 unarmed military observers to liaise with the parties and to begin to report on the implementation of a full cessation of armed violence, pending the deployment of a UN supervision mission that will be tasked with monitoring the cessation. The first group of the UN military monitors arrived in Damascus earlier this week.

The violence in Syria, which began in March last year as a protest movement similar to those witnessed across the Middle East and North Africa, has claimed over 9000 lives, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands of people.