* Ban: There may now be chance for progress towards peace
* Ban proposes force of up to 300 unarmed truce monitors
* UN mission in Syria would be called UNSMIS
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, April 18 Syria has not fully
complied with a U.N.-backed peace plan for the country and has
yet to send a "clear signal" about its commitment to ending more
than a year of violence, the U.N. chief told the Security
Council in a letter obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.
At the same time, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced hope
that there may be a chance for progress on ending a 13-month
conflict that has brought Syria to the brink of civil war.
Ban proposed an expanded U.N. monitoring mission, which, if
approved by the council, would be comprised of "an initial
deployment" of up to 300 unarmed observers to supervise a
fragile week-old ceasefire between forces loyal to President
Bashar al-Assad and opposition fighters seeking to oust him.
But he cautioned that the fighting had not ended.
"The Syrian Government has yet to fully implement its
initial obligations regarding the actions and deployments of its
troops, or to return them to barracks," he said in a preliminary
assessment of Syria's compliance with a resolution on Syria the
Security Council passed on Saturday.
"Violent incidents and reports of casualties have escalated
again in recent days, with reports of shelling of civilian areas
and abuses by Government forces," he said. "The Government
reports violent actions by armed groups."
"The cessation of armed violence is therefore clearly
incomplete," Ban said, adding that both sides say they are
committed to ending the "violence in all its forms."
Diplomats on the 15-nation council say Ban's report and a
briefing they will receive from U.N.-Arab League mediator Kofi
Annan's deputy, Jean-Marie Guehenno, on Thursday at 9:00 a.m.
(1300 GMT) will be crucial in determining whether the conditions
are right for deploying a larger monitoring mission to Syria.
U.S. and European diplomats on the council have suggested
that Syria's lack of full compliance with its obligations to end
the violence might make it difficult for them to support a new
resolution that would be needed to deploy an expanded observer
'OPPORTUNITY FOR PROGRESS'
The Security Council approved a resolution on Saturday that
authorized the deployment of an advance team of up to 30 unarmed
observers to Syria. It was the first council resolution on the
Syria crisis that China and Damascus' close ally, Russia, did
not veto. They vetoed two earlier resolutions.
On the subject of Damascus' partial compliance with Annan's
peace plan, Ban said, "It does not amount yet to the clear
signal expected from the Syrian authorities."
"I remain deeply concerned about the gravity of the
situation in the country," Ban said. "However, without
underestimating the serious challenges ahead, an opportunity for
progress may now exist, on which we need to build."
Ban said the violence had decreased in recent days since a
shaky April 12 truce came into force. He said a monitoring force
would be helpful in securing an end to all fighting, although it
was essential the conditions be right for its deployment.
"Developments since 12 April underline the importance of
sending a clear message to the authorities that a cessation of
armed violence must be respected in full, and that action is
needed on all aspects of (Annan's) six-point (peace) plan," he
"At the same time the very fragility of the situation
underscores the importance of putting in place arrangements that
can allow impartial supervision and monitoring," he said.
An advance team of monitors in Syria had visited the town of
Deraa and "enjoyed freedom of movement" there, Ban said. But he
noted that "the team's initial request to visit Homs was not
granted, with officials claiming security concerns."
Ban said that what would initially be a 300-strong observer
force "would be deployed incrementally over a period of weeks,
in approximately ten locations throughout Syria." It would be
called UNSMIS. He said an earlier U.N. proposal of 250 observers
"It would be a nimble presence that would constantly and
rapidly observe, establish and assess facts and conditions on
the ground in an objective manner, and engage all revelant
parties," he said.
Annan's peace plan calls for an end to fighting by
government security forces and rebels, withdrawal of heavy
weapons from towns, return of the army to barracks, humanitarian
access and dialogue between the government and opposition aimed
at a "political transition" for the country.
Ban also said that there had been "no substantive progress"
in negotiations for humanitarian access in Syria.