The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution on Friday to allow the 300-strong U.N. observer force in Syria to remain for 30 more days, allowing for possible extensions if Syria’s government stops using heavy weapons against the rebels.
The unanimous decision is huge, considering The Associated Press reports that earlier in the day, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, stated he would veto the British-drafted resolution on the observer mission. After the closed-door consultations, which were called by Pakistan, all 15 council members agreed to a revised British text.
The mandate for the observer force in Syria was set to expire on Friday, although observers have been suspended from patrols in the face of escalating violence. The news comes just hours after Russia’s ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, stated that he believes President Bashar al-Assad was ready to step down “in a civilized way.”
The Huffington Post reports that the Syrian government immediately denied the claim, and the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that Orlov’s statements were taken out of context, and also “wrongly interpreted.”
Orlov, who spoke with Radio France Internationale, stated that Assad’s acceptance of an international agreement in June, as well as naming a representative to negotiate the transition, means that he is getting ready to give up leadership. He stated:
“Personally … I think it will be difficult for him to stay in office, given everything that’s happened….I say it’s for Syrian people to determine that … Is the regime coming to an end or not? It’s not for me to say.”
Orlov later backtracked as well, saying that:
“If President Assad accepted this (agreement) that foresees a transition, it means that perhaps within himself he is ready to leave if that was the result of the negotiations. It’s because of this that I called it a civilized departure.”