The UN is asking the EU to supply aircraft to boost the UN operation in Syria. Meanwhile, reports of government forces violating the cease-fire continue to emerge.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday his body was asking the European Union to supply helicopters and planes to boost the mobility of the UN's operation in Syria. The mission of 250 observers the UN plans on sending to the country would "not be enough considering the current situation and the vastness of the country," he said.
Speaking in Luxembourg, Ban said that he would make a formal proposal to the EU about the provision of the aircraft by the EU Wednesday. Commenting on the status of the cease-fire in Syria, Ban added that it had been "generally observed" but violence was still occurring.
It was unclear whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would consent to more foreign troops and aircraft touching down in the country that he is battling to keep control of.
France's foreign minister, Alain Juppe, also said Tuesday that a host of international sanctions against the Syrian regime had slashed the government's financial reserves by half. Speaking at a Paris meeting of 57 countries to discuss the effectiveness of the sanctions, he called for them to be tightened.
Numerous meetings are taking place as world leaders struggle to find a solution to the Syria conflict
"We should maintain the pressure on the Syrian regime," Juppe said at the start of the meeting. "This should be done through stronger sanctions, which have an impact on the Syrian authorities."
Russia: changing its stance?
Speaking at a separate meeting in Moscow, Syrian opposition members said they sensed a change in Russia's stance on the country's situation and expressed hope that Russia would intensify pressure on the Assad regime.
Abdul-Aziz al-Kheir, a spokesman for the oppositional National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, said Russia's position had shifted over the past two months and "particularly fast over the past two weeks."
"The representatives of the Russian government aren't inclined to support the idea of preservation of the dictatorial regime,” Haytham Manna, spokesman for the Arab Commission for Human Rights said at a news conference. "They are talking about the need for continuing democratic changes, and it's very important for us."
However, Russia seemed to reassert its reluctance to completely desert the isolated Assad regime when it said Tuesday that unnamed external forces were undermining the UN peace effort in Syria and supporting the opposition. In televised remarks, the country's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, claimed that the unspecified agents were conspiring to ensure that the cease-fire efforts failed.
"They are doing this by delivering arms to the Syrian opposition and stimulating the activity of rebels who continue to attack both government facilities and ... civilian facilities on a daily basis," he said.
"Of course, government forces are also taking measures to react to such provocations."
Lavrov also called for speeding up the deployment of the United Nations mission to the country.
Meanwhile, the London-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights reported that at least two people were killed and dozens wounded by shelling as government troops made a push towards an alleged rebel stronghold, Basr al-Harir, in Syria's southern province of Deraa. The group added that in the northern province Idlib, government attacks on two villages left three people dead. The districts of Khalidiya and Bayada, were also targeted, according to the Observatory.
sej/ncy (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)