Syria: Fighting Continues; UN Suspends Mission; Russian Syrian-bound Arms Ship Turns Back

Updated On: Jun 21, 2012

As the Syrian uprising continues, at least 66 more civilians were killed yesterday in the latest fighting between anti-government protesters and Syrian forces.

Clashes were reported in the suburbs of the capital Damascus where shelling by government troops left 17 people dead, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition network. Fighting also occurred in a number of other cities across the country, including Homs and Daraa, resulting in an additional 49 casualties.

UN Suspends Observer Mission 

The latest violence comes as the United Nations suspended its observer mission in Syria last week because of the escalating danger posed to its monitors. It was yet another setback to months of international efforts to negotiate a peace plan and prevent Syria’s descent into civil war. Although the U.N.’s decision to suspend their work was made primarily to protect the unarmed monitors, some have said it appears to be to force Russia to intervene to assure observers are not the target of Syrian forces. Russia has opposed any sort of intervention in Syria’s conflict and, according to numerous reports, has been supplying Assad’s government with arms.

With more than 13,000 people having been killed since the start of the Syrian government’s crackdown on anti-government protests in March 2011, the international community has failed to impose any serious sanctions against the country. This is in part due to the resistance from Russia and China who have blocked military action and sanctions efforts from the West to protect their own interests of oil and military bases in Syria.

Divide at G20 Summit

Russia and China’s stance on Syrian intervention also caused a divide at the G20 Summit in Mexico yesterday as world leaders vocalized their differences over the conflict. U.S. President Barack Obama said Assad, whose family have ruled Syria for four decades, had lost all legitimacy and that it was impossible to conceive of any solution to the violence that left him in power. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “We believe that nobody has the right to decide for other nations who should be brought to power, who should be removed from power.”

Russian Arms Ship Headed to Syria Turns Back 

Putin’s comments came as British Prime Minister David Cameron considered ordering special forces to seize a Russian ship transporting attack helicopters to Syria. A confrontation that could have seriously damaged already strained ties between the U.K. and Russia was avoided however, when the British government instead took action to ensure the ship’s insurance was withdrawn, forcing the ship to return to Russia.

With Russia and China unlikely to drastically change their views on intervention, efforts are now being taken to offer President Assad immunity if he relinquishes power. This idea was discussed by David Cameron and Barack Obama when they met in Mexico earlier this week. British officials said that it is now “worth having a go” at attempting to negotiate a “transitional process” for Syria that would involve the president stepping down.

Report: Fighting rages in Syria; 66 more reported killed (CNN, 21 June, 2012)
Report: Syria (NY Times, 19 June, 2012)
Report: 20 die as Syria rebels storm army barracksHoms (Kuwait Times, 21 June, 2012)
Report: Syria’s Assad offered immunity if he relinquishes power (The Province, 20 June, 2012)
Report:Syria: David Cameron considered ordering special forces to seize Russian ship(Telegraph, 20 June, 2012)

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