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In its resolution of 14 April 2012, the UN Security Council decided to send an advance team for a future observer mission to monitor the cessation of violence in Syria. The UN approached Switzerland and other countries concerning participation in this preparatory mission. Switzerland will send up to six members of the Armed Forces who are already on service in the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in the Middle East.
On the basis of Switzerland’s Armed Forces Act and the relevant UN resolution, the Federal Council responded favourably to the UN’s request and on Wednesday took the decision to participate in the advance team. It took this decision not only out of humanitarian considerations but because Switzerland has an interest from the economic, security and migration policy perspectives that Syria and the whole region can find lasting stability as quickly as possible in compliance with human rights and international law. The decision on a cessation of violence and its monitoring by the UN is an important step in this direction.
Switzerland wants to contribute to the UN’s intervention with the deployment of unarmed military observers. Moreover, the UN’s request shows that Switzerland is in demand as an impartial and competent partner even in exceptional and complex situations.
To date, the crisis in Syria has claimed the lives of about 10,000 people, displaced more than one million within the country, and driven a further 45,000 out of the country as refugees. Switzerland has regularly condemned acts of violence against civilians and appealed for respect for fundamental freedoms. In protest against unacceptable acts of violence, the Swiss Ambassador in Damascus was recalled to Bern for consultations in August last year. At the end of February this year, the Embassy was closed for security reasons.
Switzerland’s humanitarian activities in Syria will continue, however. Since the outbreak of the crisis, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has supported the activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN children’s fund, UNICEF, with assistance totalling more than CHF 1.5 million. The SDC has increased its annual budget for Syria from CHF 4 to 6 million and in addition is providing support for Syrian refugees in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon.
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