United Nations, NY- The UN Security Council is scheduled to examine the future of its observer mission UNSMIS in violence-wracked Syria later on Tuesday after a joint US-Russian call for an immediate end to the conflict.
On Saturday, last week, the head of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) Norwegian Gen Robert Mood said the observers would cease patrols and stay in their current locations.
"Violence over the past 10 days has been intensified, again willingly by both parties, with losses on both sides and at significant risk to our observers," Mood on Saturday told reporters in Damascus.
The mission’s leader Major General Robert Mood, whose 300 unarmed monitors is also to brief the Security Council.
One day later and with reports that civilians trapped by regime shelling of rebel bastions such as the central city of Homs, Mood urged Sunday the Syrian government and opposition to let “women, children, the elderly and the injured to leave conflict zones.”
For her part too, UN rights chief Navi Pillay has demanded a halt to government bombardment of populated areas. “Such actions amount to crimes against humanity and possible war crimes,” Pillay told the UN Human Rights Council.
On Monday, US President Barack Obama and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin called for an “immediate cessation of all violence.”
“In order to stop the bloodshed in Syria, we call for an immediate cessation of all violence,” the two leaders said in a statement after meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.
“We are united in the belief that the Syrian people should have the opportunity to independently and democratically choose their own future,” the leaders said.
Putin told reporters that he and Obama had found “many common points” on the 15-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad that monitors say has cost more than 14,400 lives.
Obama said he and Putin agreed on the need for a “political process” to halt the conflict and had pledged to work with UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who has crafted a largely-ignored six-point plan aimed at halting the bloodshed.
But there was little sign they had agreed on concrete means to end the conflict, following US frustration at Russia’s blocking of Security Council moves against President al-Assad.
The United States, Britain and France are working on a new UN Council resolution in which they want to threaten sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But Russia, Syria’s main international ally, and China have already blocked two resolutions.
Moscow news reports, meanwhile, said Russia is preparing to send two amphibious assault ships and marines to the Syrian port of Tartous where Russia has a naval base to ensure the safety of its nationals,
The amphibious warships, The Nikolai Filchenkov and The Tsezar Kunikov, are to be sent to Tartous with a “large” group of marines, Interfax news agency quoted an officer at Russian naval headquarters as saying.
There was no official confirmation of the report by Russian authorities.
The Tsezar Kunikov can carry 150 troops and armaments including tanks, while The Nikolai Filchenkov can carry up to 1,500 tons of cargo and equipment, the report said.
Interfax said the ships could be used to evacuate Russian nationals.
Clashes and shelling persisted in several areas of Syria on Tuesday, in Damascus city and next to it along with Homs, Deir Ezzour and other provinces, including the towns of Douma and Qudsaya, according to Syrian opposition activists and official media in the country that been through violence for almost 16 months.
In New York, diplomats raised doubts about the viability of the observer mission.
“I think there will be a lot of member states of the council, including us, who will be questioning now what the future is for the mission and, therefore, by extension the Annan plan,” said Britain’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.
The international community is largely split on how to move forward in Syria, especially as the U.S. criticizes Russia for supplying weapons to the Syrian regime at the same time as France hints at providing communications equipment to the rebels.
The UN says at least 10,000 people have died since pro-democracy protests began in March 2011. In April, the Syrian government reported that 6,143 Syrian citizens had been killed by "armed terrorist groups".