Following 15 months of violence the Syrian conflict has now been described as a “civil war” by the UN peacekeeping chief. Coming as it does amid repeated attacks on UN observers the statement may endanger the whole peace plan in Syria.
Herve Ladsous, the Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, is the first UN official to acknowledge that the conflict has escalated to the state of civil war. “I think there is a massive increase in the level of violence, so massive indeed that in a way it indicates some change of nature,” he told Reuters and AFP on Tuesday.
“Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory in several cities to the opposition and wants to retake control of these areas,” Ladsous added.
The statement by a top UN official comes as the US and its allies have been pushing for more pressure and sanctions against the Syrian regime. RT’s Marina Portnaya remarks that the words coming from Ladsous will carry a lot of political weight and can actually be a “game changer” within the Security Council.
Russia and China have been opposed to any international pressure in the form of sanctions and have repeatedly referred to Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan.
Annan peace plan in danger?
The 90-day mission of 300 unarmed UN observers to Syria was instigated on the understanding that there would be a ceasefire. However, with the fighting continuing, it remains unclear what is left for the observers to monitor.
On Tuesday three UN vehicles were attacked when trying to enter the Syrian town of Al-Heffa. An angry mob threw rocks and metal rods at the UN cars, while unknown assailants fired gunshots.
Nobody was injured, but the incident does indicate the increased amount of danger the mission is facing in Syria. John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus, believes the attack reflects people’s frustration at the fact that the UN has really not done very much at all on the ground to help end the violence in Syria.
Next month the mandate for the observer mission in Syria expires. There are fears that some Security Council members may not be willing to renew this mandate if they feel that the UN observers will be in danger.