In Spain this evening, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the country's efforts to address some of “the most urgent issues on the international agenda,” including the plight of asylum seekers fleeing across the Mediterranean, and the devastating war in Syria.
At a press conference in Madrid alongside Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, the Secretary-General said that so far, the cessation of hostilities in Syria endorsed late last week by the UN Security Council “is by and large holding, despite some incidents.”
“I call on all parties to continue to keep their promises and demonstrate their good faith, particularly to allow the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to besieged areas,” said the UN chief, noting that some people in those areas have not received aid for months or even years. “Many people may have starved to death, or died from a lack of routine healthcare,” he explained.
Expressing his appreciation of the work of the Task Force on the Cessation of Hostilities and the leadership demonstrated by the members of the International Syrian Support Group (ISSG) and particularly as co-Chairs, the United States and Russia, Mr. Ban called on everyone involved to build on the cessation of hostilities and prepare the groundwork for the resumption of talks on 9 March.
Earlier in the day, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, announced that intra-Syrian peace talks he has been mediating in Geneva will resume next Wednesday.
The announcement of the resumption of the discussions comes just days after the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed the joint statement announced last week by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as co-chairs of the ISSG Ceasefire Taskforce, on the terms of a nationwide cessation of hostilities, which has been in effect since Saturday, 27 February. The ISSG is comprised of the Arab League, the European Union, the United Nations, and 17 countries, including the United States and Russia, who have been seeking a path forward for several months.
At the press conference in the Spanish capital, Mr. Ban noted that the country is currently serving on the Security Council and he urge it to continue its constructive role, calling Spain a “steadfast contributor” to UN peacekeeping operations, and a strong supporter of conflict prevention and mediation.
“As a member of the Friends of Western Sahara, Spain is an integral part of United Nations efforts to resolve that complex situation. I will be visiting the region in the next few days and I thank the Spanish Government for its support of this mission,” stated the Secretary-General.
Turning to the plight of refugees and asylum-seekers fleeing across the Mediterranean, Mr. Ban said that in his talks with the Foreign Minister, he had expressed concern over the border restrictions that are being imposed along land routes.
“These restrictions are not in line with international law or with common human decency. Every asylum seeker has the right to have his or her application considered individually,” underscored the Secretary-General adding that he is grateful for Spain's support for the principle of responsibility-sharing, and calling on other European countries to act in the same spirit.
This would be a key theme at the Summit on large movements of refugees and migrants, to be held on 19 September in New York this year. He also noted that The World Humanitarian Summit, to be held 23-24 May in Istanbul, would be an opportunity to agree on ways to better protect people, prepare for crises and ensure the funding we need to help all those caught up in natural and man- made disasters.