Warning of the prospect of a long-term civil war in Syria, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has reiterated his call for the international community to work together to resolve the ongoing crisis in the Middle Eastern country.
"We face the grim possibility of long-term civil war destroying Syria's rich tapestry of interwoven communities. This would have tragic implications for Syria's people and could affect stability across the region. We cannot let this prediction come true," Ban said in a message delivered on his behalf to an international consultative meeting on Syria, taking place in Iranian capital Tehran on Thursday.
"All of us have a responsibility to the people of Syria. We must use all of the peaceful means in the UN Charter to help them unite around a Syrian-led transition process that is based on dialogue and compromise by all sides on the ground, not bullets, arrests, abductions and intimidation," he added.
Syria has been wracked by violence, with an estimated 17,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago.
Over recent days, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country's two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, with the latter reportedly the centre of intense combat between Government and opposition forces, involving both aerial bombardments and heavy weaponry.
In his message, the UN chief noted the General Assembly adopted a resolution last week, which stressed the importance of making rapid progress on a political transition and encouraged Member States to provide active support to this end.
"For this consultative group, this means that it must take concerted efforts to persuade Syria's leadership to change course and embrace a political transitions, Ban said.
The UN chief noted that the primary responsibility for stopping the violence lies with those on the ground, particularly the Syria Government. "But their refusal to lay down arms does not absolve the rest of us of the need to act. I urge all of you to face up to the collective responsibilities we shoulder," he said.
The Secretary-General stated that a first move by the Government is vital, as "its intransigence and refusal to implement the six-point peace plan has been the greatest obstacle to any peaceful political process."
Also on the issue of Syria, the UN expert on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, said today that disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law has led to a "severe internal displacement crisis in Syria."
Independent experts like Benyani are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on a country situation or a specific human rights theme.
by RTT Staff Writer
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