Annan’s aide sees progress in Syria

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Major General Robert Mood, the Norwegian officer who’s been assigned to assist UN Special Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan, isn’t giving up yet on chances for a ceasefire between the Syrian regime and opposition forces. Mood was in Damascus through the Easter weekend, in negotiations with the embattled Syrian government.

Norwegian Major General Robert Mood with Kofi Annan, UN Special Envoy to Syria and former Secretary General of the UN. PHOTO: UN Info

“There is an abyss of suspicion and violence between the Syrian regime and the opposition, but we also see some progress,” Mood told Norwegian news bureau NTB after returning to Geneva Tuesday night. “We definitely aren’t allowed to think that it’s all over now.”

The ceasefire that was supposed to take effect on Tuesday didn’t happen and at least one frustrated European politician accused the Syrian government of lying last week, when Syrian officials said they’d cooperate with Annan’s UN-backed peace plan for Syria.

Fears also continued to rise that the conflict within Syria was spreading into other countries, as Syrian military forces were accused of shooting over the border into a refugee settlement in Turkey.

“My main assignment has been negotiations with the (Syrian) government and military, where I have discussed how we can get an observer force in place,” Mood told NTB. It’s widely expected that Mood, who has lengthy experience with UN operations and in the Middle East, will lead an international force of UN observers in Syria.

“We agree in principle that the army will withdraw, but the government is demanding clear commitments from the opposition,” Mood told NTB.

“I think that both sides are plagued by a very high degree of mutual suspicion, and that it’s terribly difficult for them to cross that abyss,” Mood said.

The Norwegian government, clearly proud that Mood is playing a central role in efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict, has given “full support to Annan’s peace plan,” according to Norwegian Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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