UNITED NATIONS The current conditions in Syria make it "extremely difficult" to envisage the deployment of United Nations monitors to observe a ceasefire, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the Security Council in a letter seen by Reuters on Thursday.
International powers agreed to try to bring about a "cessation of hostilities" in Syria's five-year civil war this week. Russia said it hopes a ceasefire can be agreed on Friday, when Russian and U.S. military officials are due to meet.
"Under the current conditions, it would be extremely difficult to envisage any deployment of United Nations monitors to conduct physical monitoring and observation tasks on the ground," Ban wrote in a letter dated Wednesday to the council.
"The operating environment in Syria will likely remain highly fragmented, volatile and militarised for the foreseeable future," he said. "Achieving any form of verification of actions committed by the parties would also be almost impossible in the current context."
Diplomatic sources told Reuters in December that the United Nations was mulling "light touch" options for monitoring a possible ceasefire in Syria that would keep its risks to a minimum by relying largely on Syrians already on the ground.
Ban wrote that once a ceasefire was in place, at least two levels of ceasefire monitoring and verification would be needed: physical monitoring and verification at a local level and an oversight body covering the entire country.
"Given the operating environment on the ground, the Security Council will need to collectively understand and accept the risks involved in mandating any international monitoring to be undertaken at the local level," Ban said.
Ban said the current options were: monitoring by local Syrian parties (government, unarmed opposition and civil society); physical monitoring by local parties with indirect or remote international support; direct physical monitoring by international parties; and direct physical U.N. monitoring.
"As the ceasefire evolves, here could also be a transition between options," he wrote.
Ban's letter was reporting to the Security Council on the implementation of a resolution adopted in December that endorsed an international road map for a Syria peace process.
He said brief U.N.-brokered peace talks had to be suspended on Feb. 5 due to the positions of the parties, a lack of progress on humanitarian initiatives and increased air strikes and fighting on the ground.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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