Paris, Asharq Al-Awsat—EU countries are divided over the UN Envoy Staffan de Mistura’s proposal to suspend hostilities between government and opposition forces in northern Syria, as Britain and France demand strong guarantees for the plan’s sound implementation, an EU diplomat told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Britain and France believe that implementing the UN envoy’s plan is not possible without the presence of international observers,” said the EU diplomatic source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Dispatching personnel to Syria to monitor the implementation of the plan on the ground would require a binding UN resolution, which is likely to face resistance from within the UN Security Council, the source maintained.
Russia and China have vetoed three draft UN resolutions on Syria because they were issued under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows for military intervention to enforce Security Council demands.
De Mistura’s plan calls on the Syrian government and opposition forces to observe a ceasefire in Aleppo in order to allow humanitarian aid to reach around one million of the city’s inhabitants and to act as a prelude for a potential political solution.
Reactions to the plan from the warring sides have been recalcitrant, as each has set out conditions on its implementation. While the government demands that the rebels hand over their heavy weaponry and allow civil servants to return to the areas they control, the opposition says it wants guarantees that Damascus will not use the ceasefire in Aleppo as an opportunity to boost its military presence elsewhere.
“Nothing allows one to expect the success of de Mistura’s plan,” the source said.
Detractors of the proposal have criticized its limitations as it sets aside opposition demands to form a transitional government that would replace that of Bashar Al-Assad.
The source warned that failure to implement the UN envoy’s plan will have consequences on how long the UN and the international community will remain interested in the Syrian crisis.
According to the diplomat, the plan is facing competition from Russia, which is currently making its own plans to bring the Syrian government and opposition to the negotiating table.
“The idea [for dialogue] was born during discussions between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama on the sidelines of an international conference on Asia in Beijing in September,” the source added.
Russia has stepped up its diplomacy on Syria in recent months, hoping to clinch a deal between the country’s rivals.
Former leader of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition Moaz Al-Khatib visited Moscow in early November, followed by a meeting between Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mouallem and Putin in Sochi.