Western Allies Seek New Path on Syria (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By NOUR MALAS BEIRUT, LEBANON 06/16/12)
WALL STREET JOURNAL
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BEIRUT—The head of the United Nations mission in Syria said a surge
in attacks by both sides in the conflict was impeding the work of its
monitors there, as the government´s use of attack helicopters spurred
new talk of other options to stop the bloodshed.
With the U.N. mission unraveling and a diplomatic deal appearing
unlikely, U.S. and European officials discussed possible next steps
with Syrian opposition groups on the sidelines of a two-day
conference in Istanbul that ends Saturday, people involved in the
Opposition leaders said they were pushing for avenues of intervention
that would bypass the U.N. Security Council, where Russian and
Chinese vetoes would be likely to block a mandate to take action
against President Bashar al-Assad´s regime.
Options pursued by the opposition include the establishment of a long-
discussed protected zone along Turkey´s border for refugees fleeing
violence, according to a diplomat in the region. A so-called safe
zone could also serve as a training ground and launchpad for
Discussions of a safe zone have been revived in the wake of mass
killings and the first documented sustained use of helicopter
gunships by the Syrian government. U.N. monitors observed helicopters
firing in the western province of Latakia, and over the towns of al-
Rastan and Talbiseh in Homs, said Sausan Ghosheh, spokeswoman for the
U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria.
The mission´s head, Norwegian Maj. Robert Mood, said the violence has
grown over the past 10 days, "willingly by both the parties, with
losses on both sides and significant risks to our observers."
Maj. Mood said that while special U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan´s
six-point peace plan wasn´t being implemented by either side—both of
which appeared to instead be "advancing military positions"—there is
still no other plan on the table.
The U.N. mission´s Security Council mandate expires on July 21, and
must be renewed if the monitors are to stay.
A statement by two senior U.N. officials on Thursday reflected the
awareness that the presence of the unarmed monitors was doing little
to stem violence. The officials, special advisers to U.N. Secretary-
General Ban Ki-moon, called on the international community to
consider their "responsibility to protect" in Syria—a principle that
allows U.N. member states to step in if a country isn´t shielding its
own population from mass crimes. Action doesn´t require a vote by
Security Council members.
The advisers, Francis Deng and Edward Luc, called on the
international community to take immediate, decisive action using "the
full range of tools available under the United Nations Charter," in a
statement on the prevention of genocide and the responsibility to
The advisers— cited what they called the Syrian government´s failure
to protect its population and a high "risk of further mass atrocity
The Syrian National Council, the leading opposition body, remains
divided on whether international intervention will provoke a bloodier
backlash from the government.
But Marah Bukai, a Washington-based member of the council, said she
and other dissidents would push the U.S. to act on a responsibility
to protect mandate. France has said it would propose a U.N. Security
Council vote on a resolution that would authorize an intervention,
possibly as part of a military operation, in Syria. Turkish officials
have said they are militarily prepared for a safe zone along their
border, but need what one regional official called "the ironclad
backing of the U.S. and others." in an intervention that would
require heavy military protection
"We are entering a new phase, a really bloody phase, and we are going
to push for this stronger than ever now," Ms. Bukai said.
Russia on Friday said it had refurbished helicopters for the Syrian
military but denied shipping new ones, after Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton earlier this week accused Russia of sending Damascus
the attack helicopters it was using to bomb restive cities.
The U.N. mission in Syria has come under extreme pressure since the
May 25 massacre at the village of Houla. The killings were the start
of a pattern of apparently systematic attacks against entire families
and even towns, as the Syrian government embarked on a campaign to
cleanse opposition strongholds and opposition forces also stepped up
The work of U.N. monitors since then has also become increasingly
dangerous and difficult. On Thursday, a group of about 20 people from
the mission were finally able to reach the town of Haffa in Latakia,
after more than a week of blocked attempts including an incident on
Tuesday in which their convoy came under fire.
In a preliminary report, U.N. observers said they found the town of
some 35,000 people all but deserted, with "a strong stench of dead
bodies" in the air.
Reports from activist and rights groups this week have also provided
new accounts of brutal government tactics in Syria. Human Rights
Watch on Friday said it interviewed 10 Syrians, including two women,
who described being sexually abused by government forces or
witnessing such abuse while in detention.
An Amnesty International report on Wednesday, based on interviews
with more than 200 people in northern Syria, documented "the
deliberate killings of scores of civilians and the burning and
looting of hundreds of houses." —Ellen Knickmeyer in Riyadh
contributed to this article. (Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
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