UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday appealed to all concerned parties to put an immediate end to armed violence and bloodshed in Syria, and stressed on the need for a unified stand by the international community to resolve the ongoing crisis in the Middle East nation.
"More fighting is not the answer. Further militarization of this conflict will only perpetuate the devastation and prolong the suffering. A sectarian civil war would also gravely imperil Syria's neighbors. Each day, as the violence spirals, more Syrians are killed, injured, tortured or forced to flee their homes or their country," Ban told reporters at United Nations Headquarters in New York on Monday.
The UN Secretary-General said joint UN-Arab League envoy Annan is working for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, but noted that the joint envoy needs the international community's united and concrete support to succeed in his efforts.
Annan's plan calls for an end to violence in Syria, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media. Nonetheless, Syrian rebel groups have abandoned the plan, citing continued killing of civilians by government forces as the reason.
Ban said Monday that the Syrian Government is adding to its "brutal crackdown" by attacking heavily populated areas with fighter aircraft and helicopters, particularly in the city of Aleppo. He also noted that the armed opposition groups have also stepped up their attacks in recent days.
Incidentally, Aleppo has been the center of intense combat between government and opposition forces since last week. Syrian forces have launched a major offensive against rebel forces who seized control of the city. Reports indicate that the regime is using fighter jets as well as helicopter gunships and heavy artillery in the offensive.
The UN chief also reiterated his concern about the possible use of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, in the conflict, and noted that any use of such weapons would be an "outrageous crime" and a major concern for the entire international community.
"We are continuously assessing the situation and our options. We have also intensified our humanitarian operations. As many as two million people are affected by violence. The only solution is a Syrian-led transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. I call on all sides to take immediate steps to meet the Security Council requirements, and give Syria the chance it needs to move beyond the violence and onto the path to peace," he added.
Hours earlier, acting head of UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, told reporters in Damascus that he had witnessed heavy shelling in the city of Homs during a visit to the area yesterday, and voiced concern about ongoing fighting in Aleppo.
"My observers there have reported an upsurge in the violence, with helicopters, tanks and artillery being used. I call on the parties, again as stated by the Joint Special Envoy, to exercise restraint and avoid further bloodshed - it is imperative that both sides respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians," Gaye said.
The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011. The opposition, however, claims the actual death toll to be closer to 18,000. The ongoing conflict in Syria is now viewed as a civil war by most of the international community.
by RTT Staff Writer
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