Last Updated: 1:45 PM, April 14, 2012
Posted: 11:41 AM, April 14, 2012
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to authorize an observer mission to monitor the cease-fire in Syria.
The vote came after two days of intense negotiations over the wording of the draft resolution, with Russia raising objections to language calling for "unimpeded" movement for the observer force in Syria.
But on Saturday, Russia gave its backing to the current US and Arab-backed draft resolution, saying it was "balanced" and sends a strong message to both the Syrian government and armed opposition forces.
The resolution authorizes an advanced party of up to 30 officials to monitor a cease-fire brokered by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and calls for the pull-back of government troops and weapons from cities and town.
The Security Council also condemned "widespread violation of human rights" by Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime and abuses by "armed groups" fighting against the government.
Annan's six-point ceasefire agreement took effect Thursday and there were subsequent reports of a drop in violence.
Welcoming the unanimous vote by the 15-member Security Council, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said Washington was pleased at the consensus and with Annan's report this week that "a fragile calm appears to be prevailing" in Syria.
But Rice said, "We are under no illusions. Two days of diminished violence after a year of murderous rampage hardly proves the regime is committed to change."
Even as the Security Council voted, there were reports by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that violence was again escalating in some areas of the country, with government forces clashing with rebel forces in the northwestern village of Khirbel el-Joz, near the Turkish border Friday. Shelling was reported in the flashpoint city of Homs.
Saturday's vote marked the first time the Security Council has agreed on a Syria resolution since the conflict began more than a year ago. Russia and China vetoed two previous resolutions condemning Assad's bloody crackdown on the opposition.
Pakistan's UN Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon said the resolution indicates a "strong and unambiguous commitment" by the United Nations, adding the ongoing violence in Syria threatens to "negatively impact an already fragile regional situation."
The United Nations estimates that more than 9,000 people have died during the 13-month uprising against Assad's regime. Human rights groups say more than 10,000 have perished.