29 May 2012

No easy task for UN monitors in Syria

For the UN monitors, as for the Syrian people of course, life here is dangerous, cynical and without trust.

We are on the main highway north from Damascus to Aleppo – Syria‘s A1, if you like. There are two white UN Toyota land cruisers, and then our tiny, somewhat absurd, Iranian-made Peugeot.

Suddenly, a round cracks overhead as the UN team monitors the “ceasefire” just outside the town of Rastan, just north of Homs. It’s a routine event.

The Norwegian officer here asks if we heard anything. He didn’t. We tell him it sounded to us like a round fired from the Rastan direction at us, probably from an AK47.

The UN mobiles won’t work in this area and now they tell us that yet again, the Syrian army is jamming their radios. It’s another routine event.

So they have to return south towards Homs in order to communicate with their bases. So had the Syrian army just fired on them as well as jammed their radios? It’s impossible to tell, but certainly, the latter.

Yesterday in Houla, 15 miles northwest of Homs, the UN patrol was fired at again. The previous day an armoured personnel carrier (APC) with a heavy-calibre gun mounted on it came close to their position then fired 2 rounds causing another fire fight.

So clearly, Kofi Annan [pictured] has his work cut out today in Damascus even negotiating reasonable conditions in which the UN “ceasefire” monitors can work. Let alone the wider business of getting a real, lasting ceasefire here at all.

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