Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the latest escalation of violence in Syria despite the Government's commitments to withdraw troops, and called on authorities to immediately cease all military action against the Syrian people.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson last night, Mr. Ban deplored "the assault by the Syrian authorities against innocent civilians, including women and children, despite the commitments by the Government of Syria to cease all use of heavy weapons in population centres."
On Monday, the Syrian Government informed the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, that it would complete the withdrawal of troops by 10 April. However, Mr. Ban stressed that this timeline, as endorsed by the Security Council, "is not an excuse for continued killing," adding that this violates the consensus position of the Council for a peaceful political settlement to the crisis to be ushered in by the full implementation of Mr. Annan's six-point proposal.
"The Secretary-General demands that the Government of Syria immediately and unconditionally cease all military actions against the Syrian people. He reiterates that it is the responsibility of the Syrian authorities to now deliver on what they have promised, and to implement, fully and unconditionally, all the commitments under the six-point plan of Joint Special Envoy Annan," the statement said.
Yesterday Mr. Annan told the General Assembly that, as agreed with the Syrian authorities, a UN team had arrived in the country to start technical preparations for the potential deployment of observers to monitor a cessation of armed violence, and the full implementation of his six-point peace plan.
Mr. Annan's proposal, which was submitted during his visit to Damascus last month, seeks to stop the violence and the killing, give access to humanitarian agencies, release detainees, and kick-start an inclusive political dialogue.
In a telephone conversation last night, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu informed Mr. Ban about the stream of refugees arriving in Turkey, with Mr. Ban expressing his grave concern at the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, which is now affecting more than one million people.
"The Syrian authorities remain fully accountable for grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. These must stop at once," Mr. Ban said.
The UN estimates that more than 8,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed, and tens of thousands have been displaced since the protests in Syria – part of the broader Arab Spring movement across North Africa and the Middle East – began in March last year.