Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renewed his call on the parties to the conflict in Syria to avoid civilian casualties, voicing grave concern about the situation in the city of Homs, where an estimated 2,500 people remain trapped amid heavy fighting.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said he is “following with grave concern” the escalating conflict in the country, where more than 93,000 people have been killed since fighting began in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad.
“The Secretary-General calls on the warring sides to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties and to allow immediate humanitarian access, as well as opportunities for trapped civilians to leave without fear of persecution,” said the statement.
The Secretary-General calls on the warring sides to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties and to allow immediate humanitarian access, as well as opportunities for trapped civilians to leave without fear of persecution.
According to media reports, Syrian Government forces launched a major offensive over the weekend to retake several rebel-controlled districts of Homs.
Mr. Ban also expressed his concern over threats to seize two Shiite villages in the northern province of Aleppo.
In addition, he called again for stopping the supply of arms to all sides and appealed to the parties in Syria and their supporters to focus instead on the search for a political solution that remains the only way out of the ongoing tragedy. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently had stated in Geneva that the international conference proposed by Russia and the United States offers the best chance to resolve the crisis that has overwhelmed Syria and threatens to engulf the whole region, and should be held as soon as possible.
“There is an urgent need for the violence to end. Far too many lives have been lost already and the conflict has generated a huge and heart-rending humanitarian crisis,” Mr. Ban said as he addressed reporters.
“The US-Russian initiative to bring Syrian parties to the negotiating table is the best chance for a lasting solution that will deliver peace and save lives,” he added. “It is essential that we do everything possible to ensure that this conference takes place as soon as possible. I urge the international community to fully commit to a political process.”
In May, following talks in Moscow between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry, the two countries announced they would work together to achieve a political solution to the Syria crisis, and agreed to convene an international conference aimed at achieving this goal.
However, a date for the conference has not yet been set and talks are continuing on the best time for it to be held, who should participate, how it should be structured and some of the questions to be discussed.
It is expected that both the Government side and the opposition groups will send their delegations, Mr. Ban said, while noting that there is a question of who will represent the Syrian people.
He said that the opposition are expected to send a delegation that can “really represent the voices and positions” of opposition groups. “We also expect that the Government delegation will also be fully empowered so that they can fully engage in negotiations with the Joint Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.”
There is also the issue of the scope of participation, particularly Iran and Saudi Arabia. “Member States have not been able to agree on whether and if their voices needed to be heard and in what way,” said Mr. Ban.
More than 93,000 people have been killed, and 1.5 million more have fled to neighbouring countries, since fighting began in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad.