As Syrian conflict intensifies, UN prepares to extend its mission
Today's assassination of two top government officials in Damascus raises the stakes of Syria's conflict yet again. Will the UN vote to continue its observer mission, or give it more teeth?
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Diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria are plodding along, with the United Nations Security Council expected to vote today on a resolution to extend the UN observer mission in Syria. Meanwhile, the conflict has passed yet another milestone: its first high-level assassination.
The vote comes on the heels of a suicide bombing at a government building that killed Defense Minister Daoud Rajha and Deputy Army chief Assef Shawkat, who is reportedly President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law. It is the first major assassination of the 17-month conflict, and a possible turning point for the opposition in attacking major installations of the Assad government.
The UN's observer mission expires in two days, and the Security Council has long been divided over whether or not the new agreement should include sanctions against the Syrian government. Russia, a longtime ally of the Assad regime, says it will not support the enactment of Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which allows for the use of sanctions and military intervention. Russian diplomats acknowledge, however, there is always the possibility of last-minute negotiations, reports the Associated Press. China has backed Russia in blocking previous resolutions proposed by the US and European Security Council members.
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As fighting in Damascus blazed on for the third straight day yesterday – the heaviest fighting in the capital since the conflict began more than a year ago – diplomatic meetings in New York, Beijing, and Geneva focused on urging Russia and China to support the Western-backed resolution. The draft resolution on the table would allow Mr. Assad 10 days to withdraw troops and heavy weaponry currently deployed across Syria. If the Syrian government fails to do so, the Security Council would submit a new resolution pushing for sanctions, according to the BBC.
As Russia digs in its heels on Syria, hope for a unified international response to the violence is waning. On July 15, the International Committee of the Red Cross labeled the Syrian conflict a civil war for the first time. With world powers failing to come to an agreement on how to move forward on the Syria conflict, the opposition group, the Syrian National Council [SNC], says “we have other options,” according to the Monitor.