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On Syria, Mysteries of Mood, UK on Transition, Morocco Asked of Free Movement

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 14, updated with transcripts -- After the modified resolution on sending advance monitors passed the UN Security Council 15-0, Inner City Press put questions to the Permanent Representatives of the UK, United States, Morocco, Russia and Syria.

  Inner City Press asked US Ambassador Rice, this month's Council president, about need the approval of the Syrian government for the full observer mission. She said that "consultations" with Syria are required.

 (Inner City Press also asked about South Sudan not pulling out of Heglig; Rice answered that the Council also called on Sudan to stop aerial bombing and that neither side has complied.)

  When UK Ambassador Lyall Grant came to the stakeout, he used the phrase "political transition." Inner City Press asked him if this meant Bashar al-Assad stepping down, if the UK could imagine a political transition in which Assad remains.

  Lyall Grant said that would be hard to imagine, that under the Kofi Annan six point plan Assad is supposed to appoint someone else for political transition talks.

  The resolution speaks of freedom of movement for the advance monitors. So Inner City Press asked Morocco's Permanent Representative Loulichki to square this with the recent UN reports that in Western Sahara, the MINURSO peacekeepers do not have freedom of movement, are monitored and their communications with people impaired.

  Loulichki said this was entirely different, that he would address it after Syria questions. But he left the stakeout without answer the question. The Council meets about Western Sahara and MINURSO on April 17.

  Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, at the stakeout, hearkened back to Inner City Press' question to Ambassador Rice about Syrian government consent, saying that of course this is required for a mission under UN Charter Chapter Six.

  He chided UK Ambassador Lyall Grant for saying he couldn't imagine Assad staying in power, saying that this is dictating or trying to dictate from outside.

  Inner City Press asked Churkin about Kofi Annan's General Mood, who reportedly left Damascus while the Syrian foreign minister and first deputy were briefly away.

  Churkin said this happened and, stranger still, when a Russian diplomat inquired at Kofi Annan's office in Geneva when Mood would return to Syria, he was told that Mood's return "should not be anticipated." Churkin went on to say that professionalism is required and that "there are other people."

  Kofi Annan's spokesman has been asked to confirm this and to explain, as well as the outstanding questions about the Kofi Annan Foundation. We will have more on this, and publish responses on receipt.

   Finally, Inner City Press asked Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari about Mood. He insisted that Syria wants Mood back, and slammed the European Union for imposing unilateral sanctions on Syria's electricity minister. By 1:50 the Security Council stakeout was empty, the advance monitors on their way. Watch this site.

Update: From the US Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: In terms of the second resolution and sending the full team, this idea that it requires the consent of the Syrian government-at least that's what both Churkin said and that's what Syria said and under Chapter 6, it would seem to require that-how do you think that that's going to go? How do you think that-what will that mean in terms of the ability of the Syrian government to either dictate terms or block deployment?

Ambassador Rice: Well, what the resolution says is that the full monitoring mission will come after three things. One, a report by the Secretary-General; two, a sustained cessation of violence; and three, after consultation with the government of Syria. That would be the normal practice for a mission under Chapter 6 of the UN Charter. But the resolution also outlines the conditions that must be precedent for the advance team as well as the monitoring mission to effectively carry out its operations, and those are described in paragraph six.

So it will be important that the advance team get on the ground and then be able to report back as to whether that initial tranche is in effect able to operate freely and move as it must with the freedom to communicate internally as well as with the Syrian people, sufficient to fulfill its mandate. If that is indeed the case, that will provide the necessary assurances to members of the Security Council who must take a decision on authorization of the full mission.

From the UK Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: When you say political transition, is this to be interpreted as meaning Bashar al-Assad leaving power? Is there a political transition you can envision where he remains in power in Syria?
Amb. Lyall Grant: Kofi Annan’s plan makes clear that there needs to be the start of a political dialogue that leads to a political transition and the introduction of a democratic, plural political system in Syria. Frankly, it looks to us, the British government, most unlikely that that is going to be possible with President Assad still in office. But the Kofi Annan plan does not call for the president to stand down, it calls on him to appoint an interlocutor to start that political dialogue. So, by definition, that interlocutor would not be Mr Assad.

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