International community must unite to support negotiated end to Syria crisis – Ban

A Syrian mother and with her son, who are refugees in Lebanon.
UNHCR/S. Malkawi
A Syrian mother and with her son, who are refugees in Lebanon.

International community must unite to support negotiated end to Syria crisis – Ban

The international community needs to unite to support a negotiated end to the crisis in Syria, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed today, reiterating that a military solution will not stop the violence that has already claimed tens of thousands of innocent lives.

At least 20,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 21 months ago. Earlier this week, the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, stated that a political solution to end the crisis is necessary and still possible.

“If we genuinely unite behind the Joint Special Representative for Syria and behind one process, based on the rejection of violence in favour of dialogue and a peaceful democratic transition, it is still possible to avert the worst-case scenario and enable a reconciled and stable Syria to emerge from this tragedy,” Mr. Ban told the fourth meeting of the Group of Friends of Syria.

In his message to the meeting, which was held in Marrakech, Morocco, and attended by the Deputy Joint Special Representative, Nasser Al-Kidwa, Mr. Ban warned that a military solution to the crisis will not end the violence, which has escalated in recent weeks.

“Left to themselves, the current dynamics risk the disintegration of Syrian state institutions and full-fledged civil war, with widespread killings along ethnic and confessional lines,” he warned. “Syria could be plunged into a destructive spiral from which recovery will be hard and long, with dangerous consequences for the entire region.

“Building a free and democratic Syria will require negotiations and genuine political dialogue. The formation of a new coalition of the opposition is an important step in the right direction and can help create the conditions for a comprehensive and inclusive political process,” he added.

Mr. Ban noted the broad representation of Syrian leaders at today’s meeting, and stressed that a durable solution to the crisis must be led and owned by Syrians working together in a spirit of inclusive dialogue and mutual understanding so all Syrians – Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, Druze, Shiites, Kurds, Assyrians and Armenians alike – can enjoy their full human rights.

“The international community has an obligation to help you build a democratic future,” he said. “The United Nations stands ready to facilitate. But we can only succeed if all sides engage positively, with the support of the international community, in particular the Security Council.”

The Secretary-General also drew attention to the fact that the situation in the country has deteriorated “dramatically” and has become more militarized, with continued large-scale human rights violations. He added that, with the onset of winter, potentially four million men, women and children inside Syria will need humanitarian assistance before the New Year.

While commending the generous assistance and provided by host governments to the Syrians who have taken refuge in neighbouring countries, Mr. Ban said the international community needs to do more to help these countries address the growing impact of the refugee crisis.

He also urged the international community to exert immediate and sustained pressure on all parties to respect international humanitarian and human rights law.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than half a million Syrian refugees have now been registered or are awaiting registration in four neighbouring countries – Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey – and North Africa.

The agency said the numbers are currently climbing by more than 3,000 per day, and the total number of refugees could increase to 700,000 by the end of the year.

Inside Syria, UNHCR reported that about 250,000 internally displaced people in Homs urgently need winter supplies and access to basic health services. The agency delivered urgent winter aid including quilts, sleeping mats, blankets, mattresses and sanitary supplies to thousands of displaced people over the last two weeks.

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) notes that food insecurity is on the rise in Syria and that the distribution of its monthly food rations has been affected by lack of funds. In November, WFP dispatched food rations for more than 1.3 million people in all governorates, and it hopes to reach 1.5 million people in December.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that nationwide electricity cuts and fuel shortages have affected people’s access to cooking, heating and telecommunications. The delivery of humanitarian aid has also been affected as fuel shortages have caused delays to aid convoys.