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EU ready to offer support to UN observers: Ashton

17 April 2012, 21:02 CET
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(STRASBOURG) - The European Union is ready to offer "any required support" to UN observers monitoring a ceasefire in Syria, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Tuesday.

Speaking at the European parliament, Ashton called for the violence and killings to stop in Syria as UN observers arrive to monitor a truce under a peace plan drawn up by special envoy Kofi Annan.

"Violence has abated but that is not enough," Ashton said.

"Once again, we all urge in the strongest possible terms that the cessation of violence is real and that Kofi Annan's plan is implemented immediately and in its entirety."

Ashton said she had told both Annan and UN chief Ban Ki-moon "that the EU and its member states stand ready to provide any required support to the observation mission."

A diplomatic source said support could come in the form of equipment, material support, armoured vehicles, pre-deployment training, communications and personnel.

An advance team of six unarmed UN monitors arrived in Syria on Sunday and are to be expanded to number 30 in the coming days in accordance with a UN Security Council resolution adopted last weekend.

The mission is to be replaced in the longer term by some 200 to 250 international monitors on condition of a new UN resolution.

But the UN secretary-general said earlier in Luxembourg that with the ceasefire "very fragile" there remained questions about whether a force of 250 monitors would be sufficient.

"I think it is not enough considering the current situation, considering the vastness of the country," he said. "That's why we need very efficient mobility of our observer mission."

He said he had discussed the possibility of the EU providing helicopters and planes to ensure efficiency and mobility, during talks in Brussels with EU officials on Monday.

"I believe the EU leadership was positively inclined," he added, while reiterating that he was "not contemplating any UN military protection at this time."

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