U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Rashad Hussain will attend the Fourth Extraordinary Session of the Islamic Summit Conference as an observer.
The two-day Summit opening in Islam's holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday was called to discuss major issues in the Muslim world, including the Syrian crisis.
"Hussain's attendance demonstrates the United States' commitment to working with our partners in the international community to support the aspirations of the Syrian people and bring additional pressure to bear on the Assad regime," the U.S. State Department said in a press release on Monday.
The envoy will also hold bilateral meetings to discuss a number of issues including Syria and the democratic transitions in the Middle East and North Africa.
OIC Foreign Ministers' meeting on the eve of the Mecca summit had agreed to expel Syria from the 57-member pan-Islamic body in protest against the Assad regime's "unrelenting bloodbath" against its own people.
Meanwhile, the head of the United Nations observer force said violence and the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons by the government as well as targeted attacks by the Opposition were increasing in Syria, taking a heavy toll on innocent civilians.
"It is clear that violence is increasing in many parts of Syria," said U.N. Military Adviser Let-Gen. Babacar Gaye, who is currently serving as the head of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). "Our patrols are monitoring the impact of this violence, visiting internally displaced people and hospitals," he told reporters on Monday.
Syria has been wracked by violence with an estimated 17,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago.
Violence escalated in the previous two weeks in many towns and villages, as well as the country's two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, with the latter reportedly the center of intense combat between government and opposition forces, involving both aerial bombardments and heavy weaponry.
Addressing a press conference in Damascus, Gaye said UNSMIS had reoriented its activities to monitor the level of violence and the use of heavy weapons, and had also intensified efforts to facilitate "local pauses" to enable assistance to civilians. The Mission had suspended its regular patrolling and monitoring activities in mid-June due to the escalating violence. The mission's mandate is set to expire on Sunday.
Various U.N. agencies continue to provide relief supplies to the three million people in the country who are in need of humanitarian aid.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reported that it had sent a convoy of food and medical aid to Damascus for the 2,400 Palestinian refugee families that have been affected by the conflict.
by RTT Staff Writer
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