Syria Conflict at Critical Stage

Syria Conflict at Critical Stage, Says Secretary-General, Warning that Sectarian

Civil War Would Be Devastating for Country as Well as Region

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the third meeting of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People, delivered by Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, in Paris on 6 July

I thank the Government of France for hosting this conference of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People

The conflict in Syria is at a critical stage.  The situation on the ground has deteriorated dramatically and has become more militarized.  Violence has escalated, claiming the lives of thousands of civilians.  Many more have been wounded, arrested and detained.  Appalling violations of human rights continue to take place

According to United Nations assessments, at least 1.5 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian aid.  Yet violence is impeding United Nations efforts to deliver much-needed assistance.  Killings, abductions and kidnappings have also become increasingly inter-communal, threatening to erode the very fabric of Syrian society.  A sectarian civil war in Syria would be devastating for Syria and for the region

Since the last meeting of this Group in Istanbul in April, some progress has been achieved on the diplomatic front.  Member States have united behind the efforts of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan.  The deployment of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) following the 12 April ceasefire appeared to have an initial calming effect.  However, that effect waned as armed hostilities escalated in mid-May.  Attacks on UNSMIS also increased.  By mid-June, General [Robert] Mood, the head of UNSMIS, had to suspend the operational activities of the Mission.  The six-point plan has not been implemented

In this difficult context, the meeting of the Action Group on Syria convened by the Joint Special Envoy last weekend in Geneva produced agreement among the participants on principles for a political transition in Syria.  This is significant.  The agreement proposes the establishment of a transitional governing body, with full executive powers, and sets out other important principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition that would meet the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people

The international community must now work together urgently to translate that agreement into action.  Further militarization would be a mistake.  This key message of the international community to both sides should be backed up by concrete action to stem the flow of arms

The opposition inside and outside Syria must also do its part to responsibly shape Syria’s political process.  I welcome the outcome of the meeting held in Cairo, which produced agreement among a large segment of the Syrian opposition regarding a vision for the political transition and the future of Syria.  The opposition must continue this work and put forward effective and representative negotiators.  The Joint Special Envoy and his team will continue to facilitate these efforts

The devastating crisis in Syria has lasted too long.  We must do all we can to build on the agreement reached by the Action Group last week and help the Syrians forge their own political solution to this crisis.  That solution can and should lead to a future that is democratic and pluralistic and guarantees the human rights of all in Syria, in full respect of Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity

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