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CNN | Analysis: U.N. mission does nothing to change endgame in Syria

The beginning of the U.N. observer mission to Syria heralds a new phase in more than a year of upheaval across the country. Success, however unlikely, could open the door to some form of dialogue between the regime and its opponents. But such is the polarization in Syria that most analysts see the mission as the least worst option before violence sets the agenda again.

It’s not as though any “cessation of violence” has yet taken hold. The ceasefire was meant to begin last Thursday, but in the past few days the regime has continued to shell restive city neighborhoods, according to opposition activists and U.N. officials. U.N. human rights officials reported Monday “the shelling of the Khalidiya neighborhood and other districts in Homs by government forces and the use of heavy weaponry, such as machine-guns in other areas, including Idlib and some suburbs of Damascus.”

One of the most important parts of the plan devised by Kofi Annan is that tanks, troops and heavy weapons be withdrawn from populated areas, but this has clearly not happened.

Monitoring missions can only work when the parties to a conflict have had enough of fighting or can be coerced into negotiation by outside powers. The Arab League mission members in Syria earlier this year were little more than bystanders, unable or unwilling to operate amid the government crackdown.

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Twenty years ago, the U.N. agreed to deploy a mission to monitor a ceasefire in Sarajevo, the besieged capital of Bosnia. But the ceasefire never took hold as both Serbs and Muslims quarreled over its terms. Aid convoys were attacked and looted as U.N. monitors looked on.

By the middle of 1992, more than a million Bosnians were homeless, similar to the number of Syrians displaced today. Despite the subsequent expansion of the U.N. presence in Bosnia, there was no mandate for more forceful intervention until the Srebrenica massacre — more than three years after the conflict began.

The parallels are not exact but “there is a certain deja vu quality” to events in Syria, admits Ahmad Fawzi, spokesman for Annan.


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