As efforts intensify to bring the Syrian sides to a negotiating table in Switzerland, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced his grave concern about the continued and indiscriminate use of heavy weapons and mortar shelling in the ongoing conflict, most recently in hard-hit Aleppo which has been the site of a “barrel bomb” campaign by Government forces.
“Further escalation of violence will only serve the agendas of those who see military means as the only way forward, at the expense of the Syrian people who have suffered enough already,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
Mr. Ban has spoken out against the use of so-called “barrel bombs” – oil drums filled with explosives and shrapnel and dropped by aircraft – which he said are adding “yet another appalling dimension to the fighting.”
“All parties to the conflict must adhere to international humanitarian and human rights law,” said today’s statement. “All civilians must be protected in any situation.”
Well over 100,000 people have already been killed in Syria and 8 million driven from their homes, with 2 million of them seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, since the conflict first erupted in March 2011.
Preparations are underway for the international conference in which the Syrian Government and the opposition will officially meet for the first time to discuss peace efforts.
The conference, due to start in Montreux on 22 January 2014 and then continue in Geneva, is led by Joint Special Representative of the UN and the League of Arab States for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, and counterparts from the United States and Russia, with participants from more than 30 countries.
The goal of the so-called “Geneva II” conference is to achieve a political solution to the conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the Government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué, adopted after the first international meeting on the issue on 30 June 2012, which called for the creation of a transitional government that would lead to holding elections.
Mr. Ban today reiterated his support for the talks, urging everyone involved in the fighting to “work immediately on reducing the levels of violence and focusing instead on a peaceful, political solution to the conflict.”
He also appealed for all people detained and abducted as a result of the conflict to be freed, and for an end to the sieges, as well as humanitarian access to those in need.