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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Vienna, Austria, Nov. 14, 2015 (State Department Photo).

New Plans for U.N. Cease-Fire Monitoring in Syria Must Avoid Past Errors

Monday, Nov. 16, 2015

Desperate times call for desperate conflict-management measures. This weekend, at talks on Syria convened in Vienna at the behest of Russia and the U.S., diplomats called for Damascus and mainstream opposition groups to agree to a national cease-fire, in parallel with continued offensives against the self-declared Islamic State and al-Qaida-affiliated fighters. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council pledged to back a “U.N. endorsed ceasefire monitoring mission in those parts of the country where monitors would not come under threat of attacks from terrorists.”

Will this be a case of “the third time’s the charm” for peacekeeping in Syria? Early in the civil war, two international observer missions tried to stem the country’s collapse into all-out war. The first, sent by the Arab League in December 2011, was grossly incompetent and barely lasted a month. The second, launched by the U.N. in April 2012, was more professional but no more successful. The blue berets deployed to oversee a cease-fire that was collapsing as they arrived. They made strenuous efforts to monitor the rising violence, but China and Russia blocked any serious reaction by the Security Council. ...

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