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With the departure from Syria on Sunday of members of a United Nations mission sent to monitor the tumultuous country, the fighting there has entered a period of crisis.
Now is the time for the international community to rally around the UN and press ahead with attempts to find a political solution to the violence ravaging Syria, which is the only way to ensure a peaceful resolution can be achieved.
The UN Supervision Mission in Syria, formed in April by a mandate of the UN Security Council, officially expired at midnight on Sunday.
The UN has decided not to extend the mission's mandate, instead approving the establishment of a civilian office in Syria. That office is to be based in the Syrian capital of Damascus and is to carry on the work of Kofi Annan, the former joint UN and Arab League special envoy to Syria who was trying to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis before resigning earlier this month.
On Friday, Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, announced that the veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi will take Annan's place as the international envoy to Syria. This latest UN decision reveals the UN is again working to honor its commitment to bring about a peaceful resolution to the upheaval in Syria.
The UN's continued presence in the country will help pave the way for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, which is becoming more complicated. The anti-government movement there has gone from relying largely on peaceful means to using those of a bloody armed insurgency.
The incessant unrest has brought untold suffering to the Syrian people. The UN estimates more than 17,000 people have been killed in the violence.
It is unfair to blame all of this on the Syrian government. The UN has said both Syrian army and rebel forces have been responsible for civilian deaths.
Yet, the West, led by the United States, has remained partial to the opposition. Signs have emerged that Western powers are moving faster to produce a regime change in Syria without the intercession of the UN.
Any attempt to circumvent the international organization is dangerous. If the application of a political solution to the crisis is delayed, that will only plunge the country deeper into civil war and undermine regional stability.
(China Daily 08/21/2012 page8)