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WASHINGTON – The United Nations could send as many as 10,000 peacekeepers to Syria, even though the Syrian opposition has objected, saying it would only have the effect of prolonging the existence of the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Russian sources at the U.N. say that representatives of countries whose troops would make up the U.N. peacekeeping force met to discuss how to go about it.
Russia, which is a major backer of the Assad regime, is prepared to agree to the deployment of peacekeepers in Syria.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov has underscored the prospect.
“We are ready to discuss ways of implementing this document (the Geneva statement of the Action Group for Syria), with an emphasis on building up the dialog in Syria in the conditions of a full and guaranteed ceasefire,” he said.
“When we say ‘guaranteed,’ we mean that we are ready to consider the issue of sending observers and U.N. peacekeepers, agreed with the Syrian government,” he added. “The idea is to reach local ceasefire (agreements) between the government and the opposition through international mediation.”
According to an informed source, the problem is that the U.N. has no extra resources.
“The U.N. has a contingent of about 115,000 peacekeepers in various countries, but in order to send a peacekeeping mission to Syria, the U.N. will have to withdraw them from somewhere.”
For some time there have been proposals to send in such a force, but that was before fighting between the regime and opposition forces intensified.
Chief Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has been proposing a peacekeeping mission to Syria where a civil conflict is approaching its second year and has seen almost 40,000 people killed.
Last February, the Arab League proposed sending a peacekeeping force to Syria. It also called upon the Arab nations to sever diplomatic relations with Damascus.
The Arab nations are predominantly Sunni; Syria’s Sunni majority is ruled by al-Assad’s Shiite Alawites.
The league had an observer mission of some 200 military personnel in Syria but left after failing to put a stop to the civil conflict.
At the time, the Arab League ministers had adopted a resolution calling on the U.N. Security Council to allow a joint Arab-U.N. force to “supervise the execution of a cease-fire” as well as “halt all forms of diplomatic cooperation” with the government in Damascus.
It was at this meeting last February that Syria’s membership in the Arab League also was suspended.
Members of the League, which is comprised of monarchy-led Arab countries, are opposed to the Assad regime due to its close alliance with Sunni Saudi Arabia’s nemesis, Shiite Iran.
At the time, the U.N. General Assembly, which took up the issue of introducing peacekeepers into Syria, had decided to focus on humanitarian issues. However, the General Assembly resolution under consideration at the time, drafted by the Saudis, was non-binding, and nothing came of it.
The latest call for the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers, however, is being met with opposition by Syrian activists, who believe it would split the country into pro-and anti-regime areas.
Brahimi, however, believes that Syria “very, very urgently” needs a cease-fire enforced by a large peacekeeping contingent.
“We want to deliver a message not only to the international community but also to the Syrian political opposition that nobody on the ground would accept the deployment of blue helmets,” a reference to U.N. peacekeepers, according to Omar Shakir, an activist who opposes the Assad regime.
“The Free Syrian Army is advancing at high speed towards the capital,” he said. “If blue helmets are deployed, that would enable the regime to stay in power.”
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