The man who is to lead a team of UN observers in Syria has called on both sides to cease all hostilities. Norwegian Major General Robert Mood spoke to reporters shortly after arriving in Damascus.
The head of the new United Nations observer mission in Syria has called on the forces of President Bashar al-Assad and rebel fighters to lay down their arms so that a fragile cease-fire can take hold.
"We want to have combined efforts focusing on the welfare of the Syrian people," Nowegian Major General Robert Mood told reporters shortly after arriving in the Syrian capital on Sunday. This, he said, means a "true cessation of violence in all its forms."
Mood was to take charge of an advance team of 16 observers. A Security Council resolution creating the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria, (UNSMIS) authorizes a team of as many as 300 observers. Mood stressed though, that even a full compliment of monitors would require the cooperation of all parties to the conflict.
"Thirty unarmed observers, 300 unarmed observers, even 1,000 unarmed observers cannot solve all the problems," he said. "I call on everyone to help us and cooperate with us in this very challenging task ahead."
Peace plan in jeopardy
The observers' job is to attempt to salvage a six-point peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
The plan had called for a cessation of hostilities to be followed by negotiations. Soon after it came into force, the intended cease-fire threatened to break down, with government forces continuing to attack opposition strongholds and rebel fighters attacking the army.
Assad's forces also ignored one of the main elements of the cease-fire, which required them to withdraw tanks and military personnel from the streets of the country's urban centers.
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, expressed his concern on Sunday, that the cease-fire could be close to completely unravelling.
Kellenberger told the Swiss newspaper Der Sonntag that he was "aware how much this plan is at risk," but that he remained hopeful, adding that it was "especially important for this (observer) mission to expand quickly."
According to UN estimates, more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria, since the government began a violent crackdown on demonstrators who have been calling for political reforms over the past year.
pfd/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters)