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Both sides in Syrian conflict fail to protect civilians – UN chief

Published time: September 05, 2012 00:39
Edited time: September 05, 2012 04:40

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses the United Nations General Assembly meeting at the United Nations in New York (AFP Photo / Spencer Platt)

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With fighting in Syria showing no sign of abating, the UN chief has accused both the Syrian government and the opposition of large-scale human rights violations, stressing the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon urged the world powers to unite behind a plan to end the conflict that so far has claimed more than 18,000 people, according to UN estimates.

Ban stated that "government forces and the armed opposition have clearly failed to protect civilians and respect the rules of international humanitarian law."

"Prisoners on both sides are subject to harsh treatment and, often, torture," he added. "There have been alarming reports of summary executions on both sides."

The UN chief expressed concern about the “continuing militarization” of the conflict, warning against those who arm both sides. "Those who provide arms to either side are only contributing to further misery – and the risk of unintended consequences as the fighting intensifies and spreads," he said.

As a solution to the bloody crisis Ban urged the Member States to provide strong and unified support to the new joint UN and Arab League envoy on the Syrian crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi, as he takes up the mission following Kofi Annan’s resignation.

Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat, stressed that its solely the responsibility of the Syrian people, to decide their future.

The future of Syria will be built by its own people and none other. The support of the international community is both indispensable and very urgent. It will only be effective if all pull in the same direction,” he stated.

Also on Tuesday the UN refugee agency reported that the number of those fleeing the conflict in Syria to neighboring countries rose to over 100,000 in August.

“If you do the math, it's quite an astonishing number and it points to a significant escalation in refugee movement and people seeking asylum, and probably points to a very precarious and violent situation inside the country,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ spokesman Melissa Fleming said.

Since fighting engulfed Syria in March 2011, some 235,000 people were forced to seek shelter in other countries. The number recently reported by the UNHCR for August equals more than 40 per cent of this total.

"The conflict is intensifying," Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly. "The longer it goes on, the more difficult it will be to contain. The more difficult it will be to find a political solution. The more challenging it will be to rebuild the country and the economy."