UN Observer Mission to Syria Withdraws
United Nations military monitors pulled out of Syria Monday after a four month observation mission. The withdrawal came a day after Bashar al-Assad appeared in public for the first time since July to mark Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, which in Syria was marred by the death of some 157 people across the country. The last of the UN monitors, most of whom had already left, are expected to be gone by Friday since “conditions for continuing operations had not been met,” according to Reuters. “Our mission failed because the two sides did not abide by their commitments,” said one U.N. observer.
As the UN mission ends, intense fighting continued, with at least 44 killed in the shelling of Daraa in the south of Syria and with deadly clashes in Aleppo and Damascus. Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN’s new international envoy, warned that it is “now a matter of ending rather than avoiding a civil war after 17 months of bloodshed.” Brahimi told the Associated Press that he will face difficulty faring better than his predecessor due to divisions within the UN Security council, where Russia and China have consistently used their veto power to block Western-and Arab-led action against the regime.
On Monday, Russia cited evidence of a large number of Western-made arms in the possession of Syrian opposition forces, and suggested that the United States and European countries were helping to escalate violence within the country. According to al-Ahram, the comments “echoed others that appear intended to blame Western and Arab countries for the failure to end the conflict through diplomacy such as outgoing mediator Kofi Annan‘s peace plan.” However, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that the Assad regime in running out of money, and without the support of Russia and Iran, it has only enough to hold out a few months. France has plans to discuss ways to reduce Syrian government funding with Russia.