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General Assembly to discuss latest developments in Syria


General Assembly to discuss latest developments in Syria

The General Assembly will meet on Monday to discuss the situation in Syria, where the death toll keeps rising as Government forces continue their bloody crackdown against a pro-democracy uprising.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, will brief Member States on the latest developments after a request from General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser.

The 193-member Assembly will also discuss the report of the UN Human Rights Council from December last year in which that body strongly condemned abuses by Syrian authorities carried out as part of the crackdown.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, firmly condemned today’s bomb attacks in the city of Aleppo that targeted governmental security offices and killed and injured scores of people.

He extended his sympathy and condolences to the bereaved families and the Government and people of Syria.

“The Secretary-General reiterates that all violence is unacceptable and must cease immediately from all sides,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson.

He reiterated his strong conviction that the crisis in Syria can only be solved through a comprehensive peaceful political solution that addresses the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people and ensures the full respect of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

More than 5,000 people have been killed since the uprising – part of the broader Arab Spring movement across North Africa and the Middle East – began in March last year, and senior UN officials have urged the Government to stop the violence and hold dialogue with opposition groups.

Earlier this week Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN is considering sending a joint observer mission with the League of Arab States in a bid to resolve the crisis engulfing the country.

He also voiced regret that the Security Council was unable to agree on collective action on the issue after Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution endorsing Arab League efforts to end the crisis.

“The failure to do so is disastrous for the people of Syria,” he said. “It has encouraged the Syrian Government to step up its war on its own people. Thousands have been killed in cold blood… I fear that the appalling brutality we are witnessing in [the city of] Homs, with heavy weapons firing into civilian neighbourhoods, is a grim harbinger of worse to come.”

The Syrian crisis also came up during Mr. Ban’s meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, with whom he also discussed developments in Libya and the situation in Somalia and Lebanon. They also talked about the Middle East peace process, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June, and the global financial crisis.

Mr. Monti also conferred separately with the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, in discussions that covered a wide range of issues of mutual concern. They exchanged views on the latest developments in the Middle East, Security Council reform and the global financial and economic crisis. The Italian delegation included Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi.

Mr. Ban’s Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect, Francis Deng and Edward Luck, issued a joint statement today in which they urged an immediate end to the violence, particularly given the daily reports emerging from Homs of attacks against densely populated areas.

“The presence of armed elements among the population does not render attacks against civilians legal,” the statement noted.

Mr. Deng and Mr. Luck voiced grave concern over reports of rising sectarian tensions within Syria, and they called on civil society groups and others to make “proactive and vigorous efforts… to restore confidence across ethnic and sectarian lines before tensions escalate further.”

The Special Advisers urged all sides to take immediate steps to ensure that the human rights of everyone, regardless of their religious identity or political affiliation, are respected and protected.

Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for Ms. Pillay, told reporters today in Geneva that international law requires that during any armed conflict the wounded and sick must be treated humanely, and the neutrality of medical facilities must be respected.

Fadéla Chaib, a spokesperson for the UN World Health Organization (WHO), also expressed concern about press reports indicating that health-care facilities were not being treated as neutral premises.

Ms. Chaib said there has been a massive increase in weapons-related injuries in recent days, and medical staff have also outlined disruptions to the supply of medicines and pharmaceuticals.