UN to keep presence in Syria as observers mission ends
Damascus, Aug. 16 (Xinhua-ANI): The mandate of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) was not extended by the UN Security Council's meeting on Thursday, however, the council agreed to establish a new civilian office in Damascus to back the mediating efforts of the United Nations and the Arab League (AL).
UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said recently that "it is imperative for the United Nations to have a presence in Syria to undertake humanitarian operations and support efforts by the UN and the Arab League in mediating and facilitating a peaceful resolution to the crisis."
The four-month-old UN observer mission in Syria was hobbled from the beginning as a result of the incessant violence in Syria. The mission's mandate is expected to end at midnight Sunday.
The new UN decision came as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) suspended Syria's membership on Thursday.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Thursday AL and OIC have conspired on Syria and suspended its membership.
Meanwhile, al-Moallem said Syria has welcomed the idea of appointing al-Akhdar al-Ibrahimi as the new UN envoy to Syria, noting that Syria wants to preserve the presence of UN in Syria to oversee the situation on ground.
"The United Nations has asked us about the possibility to appoint al-Akhdar al-Ibrahimi and we have welcomed that but a final decision hasn't yet been made by the UN," the minister said, saying that pulling out the UN Supervision Mission from Syria "is their business." "They said we will replace them with an office upon the suggestion of the UN Secretary General, and we said welcome," he said.
On ground, activists reported scores of casualties, blaming on the government troops' shelling on populated areas, while the government media flaunted the Syrian troops' "qualitative" operations nationwide, mainly in northern Aleppo province, a hotbed of armed conflict between rebel fighters and government troops.
The state-run SANA news agency said the army troops carried out Thursday a number of operations in Aleppo, purging armed insurgents from main governmental establishments.
Also Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appointed three new ministers, including ministers of health, industry and justice and governor of Aleppo.
The reason behind the new reshuffle was not immediate known, but it came days after former Prime Minister RIadh Hijab defected to Jordan. (Xinhua-ANI)
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