DAMASCUS — A veteran peacekeeper flew in yesterday to take command of UN observers in Syria who urged all sides to respect a more than two-week-old ceasefire that has been violated with bloodshed each day.
Major General Robert Mood, a 54-year-old Norwegian who negotiated with Syrian authorities the conditions for the deployment of an advance team, said: “To achieve the success of the Kofi Annan plan, I call on all sides to stop violence and help us continue the cessation of armed violence.”
“We will work for the full implementation of the six-point Annan plan which the Syrian government agreed to,” he told reporters in Damascus.
“To achieve this, we now have 30 monitors on the ground, and in the coming days we will double this figure,” he said, adding that the number would “rapidly” increase to 300.
The general “brings to his new position extensive command experience and knowledge of peacekeeping attained through service at the national and international levels,” UN chief Ban Ki-Moon said in announcing the appointment.
Mood was head of the UN Truce Supervision Organisation, which monitors Middle East truces, from 2009 until 2011.
As he landed, at least seven more people were killed yesterday, including four soldiers who died in a bomb blast in the northern province of Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
And snipers shot dead two civilians in the city of Homs and security forces killed a civilian in the Hama region, both in central Syria, the monitoring group said.
A spokesman for the military observer mission said that the advance party of observers had already set up base in the major troublespots in the 13-month conflict.
He said it was a “matter of the utmost urgency” for the world body to expand the fledgling mission to the full 300 personnel authorised by the Security Council.
Thirty-two people were killed on Saturday, despite the ceasefire brokered by international peace envoy Kofi Annan, the Syrian Observatory said.
“It is extremely important in the context of our mandate that there is full cessation of violence in all its forms by all the parties,” said mission spokesman Neeraj Singh.
“That is the necessary first imperative and that is what we are here to monitor and support.”
Singh said that even though the UN mission still only had a small advance team deployed, it was already on the ground in major protest centres that
have been at the centre of bloodshed the United Nations estimates has killed more than 9,000 people since March 2011.
“Even from the advance team that was here until now, as you see, apart from Damascus, we have permanently based observers in Homs, Hama, Daraa and Idlib,” he said.
“I think things have been moving as fast as possible. This is a matter of utmost urgency for the UN. All efforts are in place to make sure that we get the people on the ground as quickly as possible.”
In Saturday’s violence, government troops killed at least 10 dissident fighters in the Damascus region, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory said.
Twenty-two civilians also died — eight in flashpoint central Hama, two in nearby Homs, three in Idlib near the Turkish border, four in Aleppo, four in Damascus province and one in Al Raqqah in the northeast, it added.
Separately, the official Sana news agency reported three soldiers and two “terrorists” killed in Syria’s second-biggest city Aleppo in clashes between troops and “armed terrorist groups.”
And in what was believed to be the first case of Westerners going missing in the violence-swept country, Budapest said that two Hungarians had been kidnapped.
Peter Szijjarto, a spokesman for Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, told the country’s state news agency MTI yesterday that the two were alive.
“The foreign ministry, the Hungarian consulate in Damascus and the TEK (Hungary’s anti-terrorism centre) are working together day and night to ensure that the kidnapping will be resolved peacefully as soon as possible,” he said. — AFP