(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The Syrian government seems keen on proving its commitment to the United Nations' six-point peace plan.
However, President Bashar Al Assad's recent signing of an agreement to allow an expanded UN observer mission for monitoring purposes may surprisingly have become the latest source of contention.
While it has Russian support, the United States and some European states are hesitant to throw their weight behind it. They feel that continued fighting in Syria, even a week after the UN-ordered ceasefire came into effect, engenders the observers' mission and questions the need for expansion at this stage. While deploying unarmed observers is risky these could act as a deterrent to end the violence. There are few alternatives at present and this is something that must be weighed in terms of priority. Imposing Security Council sanctions and/or a military intervention is something that is not likely to come about given Russian and Chinese opposition to both options before giving the UN peace plan a chance.
Not wanting to waste any more time, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has, therefore, urged the world powers to immediately sanction an expanded observers mission to help implement the ceasefire and end the fighting. Both the Syrian government and the opposition-backed Free Syrian Army blame each other for the continued violence. It is thus imperative that larger numbers of UN observers are sent out to monitor the actual situation and advise the international community on what action to take to resolve the crisis. Even the opposition alliance, the Syrian National Council, wants more observers on ground. The SNC may want to use the observers' presence as a means to allow more protests but the key issue at hand is implementation of the ceasefire in totality.
The onus for this falls not just on Assad but also the opposition forces. Unless both sides hold their fire, the crisis will worsen. A break out of an all-out civil war and imminent spill-over into neighbouring states is not a scenario anybody would like to see and its best to avoid this by putting a halt to the fighting on an immediate basis. Damascus should continue to be pressured but at the same time the UN must urge the regional states to double their mediation efforts with the opposition groups and urge restraint for any peace plan to come into effect. It is hoped that wiser counsel prevails.