The hard-won truce appeared to be holding, but only just
Picture from the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network April 13, shows protesters waving flags during a demonstration against President Bashar al-Assad in Kfarnabel in Idlib province. AFP is using pictures from alternative sources as it was not authorised to cover this event and is not responsible for alterations that cannot be independently verified © - AFP/Shaam News Network
The hard-won truce appeared to be holding, but only just
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AFP
Last updated: April 14, 2012

UN vote on Syria mission faces Russia doubts

The UN Security Council on Saturday unanimously passed its first resolution on the Syria crisis, allowing an advance party of ceasefire monitors to go to the country on the brink of civil war.

UN Resolution 2042 approved the first 30 unarmed military monitors, who UN officials said could leave for Damascus within hours.

The resolution also calls upon the Syrian government to "implement visibly" all commitments under special envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan -- including the withdrawal of all troops and heavy guns from Syrian cities.

The vote had been expected Friday but was held up by Russian objections to much of the text. Russia's ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that "substantive changes" had been made to make it "more balanced."

Russia and China vetoed two previous attempts by the 15-nation council to pass a resolution on the crisis which the UN says has left well over 9,000 dead.

A new resolution with a full mandate will be required for the full monitoring mission of more than 200 observers.

The resolution called on President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition "to guarantee the safety of the advance team without prejudice to its freedom of movement and access."

It "stresses" that "primary responsibility" for the observers' safety rests with the Syrian government.

France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud said sending the advanced mission would "test whether Syria is serious about its engagements" before authorizing the full mission.

He said attacks by government forces on civilians in Homs on Saturday had raised "some doubt" about the intentions of Assad's government.

All western envoys raised doubts about whether Assad would stick to the ceasefire started on Saturday and keep to commitments made to Annan.

The resolution comes "only after the Syrian people have over one year suffered unimaginable brutality at the hands of a regime which has prioritized its own survival," said Britain's UN envoy Mark Lyall Grant.

Russia's envoy, Churkin, said the observers are "facing a difficult challenge. They will need a high degree of professionalism, courage and objectivity."

The Security Council ordered UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to report by Thursday on the initial work of the monitors and by Wednesday give recommendations for deploying the full mission.

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