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Top UN officials arrive in Syria to assess observers' progress on ground

(Xinhua)

10:56, May 19, 2012

DAMASCUS, May 18 (Xinhua) -- Three senior UN officials arrived in the Syrian capital of Damascus Friday to assess the observers' mission which is operating in Syria to monitor the implementation of the six-point plan brokered by UN-Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan.

The officials are Herve Ladsous, UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno, deputy to Annan, and Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, assistant secretary-general and military adviser to the United Nations.

Upon arrival, Herve Ladsous told Xinhua, "I have come here to look at the way things are going."

Ladsous said the UN mission aims at achieving a cessation of violence in Syria and working towards the cooperation of all those involved in order to create space for political dialogues.

He said the mission also aims to have access to detainees and assess the violations of human rights.

For his side, Guehenno said he came to Syria to see "how the deployment of the UN observers is going to help in moving forward the political process," adding that he will meet with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem to prepare the upcoming visit of Kofi Annan.

He said he wants to make sure that "this mission serves a purpose that really brings back peace to the Syrian people."

Earlier in the day, UN observers chief in Syria, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, said Friday that close to 216 unarmed military observers have been deployed on the ground in several restive Syrian cities, but stressed that no observers can achieve a permanent end to the violence in Syria without a genuine will from both sides of the conflict.

Annan has recently said that a maximum number of 300 observers will be deployed in Syria by the end of May.

Meanwhile, Mood pointed out that his mission has been challenged in symmetric incidents in some locations across Syria.

"This violence is continuing during the time needed to achieve full deployment and operational capacity of the UN mission in Syria," he said.

Six observers had to be evacuated on Wednesday from the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun that is controlled by the opposition, a day after a roadside bomb hit their convoy there. None of the observers was wounded, and it was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

The ongoing violence has undermined the work of the UN observers, who began to arrive in Syria last month to monitor the ceasefire brokered by Annan.

The ceasefire, which went into effect on April 12, has been shaky from the very beginning as mutual mistrust between the government and the opposition has overwhelmed the endeavors to solve the crisis politically.

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