The UN will send 30 observers to Syria to monitor the country’s situation. Over in Iran, Tehran and the world powers have agreed to meet for more in-depth talks regarding Iran’s nuclear program in May.
Syria purportedly not observing ceasefire agreement
Six observers from the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) landed in Syria yesterday to monitor the country’s ceasefire, with 24 more expected to arrive within the week. Despite having accepted UN special envoy Kofi Annan’s proposal for a ceasefire, which was supposed to have come into effect four days ago, the Syrian government has not withdrawn its forces and heavy weaponry from cities. Instead, Syria’s regime forces have continued their attacks at Homs and other districts.
While activists have reported increased bombing against opposition households within the city, the Syrian government has alleged that their attacks were driven by an increase in the number of “criminal attacks” by terrorist groups since the truce began last Thursday morning.
Western countries and the Syrian opposition have been skeptical that President al-Assad will abide by Mr. Annan’s six-point peace plan, which not only requires a ceasefire but also that the Syrian government begin diplomatic talks with the opposition in near future. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has reiterated the importance that the “Syrian government should take all measures to keep [a] cessation of violence”.
According to DPKO spokesman Kieran Dwyer, the UN taskforce hopes to “liaise with the government of Syria, the Syrian security forces and begin to reach out to the opposition” so that all parties understand the role of the UN observers. The observers will not only monitor the truce, but will also be supervising the implementation of all aspects of the peace plan. They will have to oversee the release of all detainees and ensure that aid is available to areas which have been badly affected by the violence.
Report: UN truce observers arrive in Syria as shelling continues [New York Times, 16 April 2012]
Report: Shelling in Syria as UN monitors begin mission [Associated Press, 16 April 2012]
Most are apprehensive about Iran nuclear talks
Twice, Iran failed to hold conducive talks with UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Despite this, talks with key world powers on Saturday seemed to have ended on a more positive note, with the next meeting set on May 23 in Baghdad. The US, France, Russia, China and Britain, which form the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, are expected to be in attendance.
According to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, it has already been agreed that “the non-proliferation treaty forms a key basis for what must be serious engagement to ensure all the obligations under the treaty are met by Iran while fully respecting Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy”. Ms. Ashton also said that “subsequent meetings will lead to concrete steps toward a comprehensive negotiated solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program”.
The negotiations will not be allowed to stretch on indefinitely, however. US President Obama was clear on the fact that the US was “not going to have [the] talks just drag out in a stalling process”. He hinted that more sanctions would be imposed on Iran if it does not take action soon.
Report: Obama says more Iran sanctions coming if talks drag [Reuters, 15 April 2012]
Report: Ashton: Iran nuclear talks ‘constructive and useful’ [CNN, 15 April 2012]