All sides to the conflict should cooperate with the UN observer mission
WHEN two bomb blasts went off in Damascus on Thursday, destroying a building housing the "Palestine branch" of the country's intelligence agency, killing 55 people and wounding hundreds of bystanders and members of the security services, the government of Syria and leading opposition groups traded accusations with each other. The Syrian authorities blamed the opposition, pointing to their ties to terrorists, while the Syrian National Council denied it was behind the explosions, claiming instead that the regime carried out the bombings to discredit the resistance movement. However, on Saturday, a group calling itself the Al-Nusra Front claimed responsibility not only for Thursday's attack, but also for a spate of earlier bombings in the Syrian capital as well as in Aleppo.
The evidence of foreign involvement in the string of bombings underscore the uphill task facing the United Nations Observer Mission in Syria in implementing Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan, which called for a ceasefire between the government and the rebels. As it is, the 145 military observers supported by some 50 civilian staff spread around six locations have had great difficulty in persuading the security forces and the opposition militias to stop the fighting. Now that unknown opponents to the regime with reputed links to foreign terrorists are prepared to take the violence to another level with a wave of bombings, the prospects for the end to the fighting look even bleaker than before.
This is all the more reason for the government and the leading opposition groups to cooperate with the UN observer mission, cease hostilities and observe the truce. To be sure, even if government forces were to withdraw from the populated areas and the armed opposition agreed to lay down arms, this may not be sufficient to stop the violence as there now seems to be a third force bent on terrorist action. But it would at least serve to isolate them. Indeed, with the UN observers on the ground, there is an independent means to monitor and verify reports about those responsible for the violence. More importantly, a ceasefire is a necessary condition for the UN to engage the government and the opposition in a political dialogue aimed at starting a political transition for the country. For this reason, it is vital that all sides stop breaching the truce and cooperate fully with the UN observer mission. All countries should also refrain from actions that could undermine the six-point peace plan. The priority should be on facilitating a peaceful process of constructive dialogue to resolve the crisis in Syria.