UN chief calls for 'sustained pressure' on Assad |
Gulf Times - 20 June, 2012
UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on the Security Council yesterday to put “sustained pressure” on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying he was “gravely concerned” about the rising death toll, a top aide said.
The head of the UN’s beleaguered observer mission, which has been struggling to shore up a ceasefire that was supposed to take effect from April 12, briefed the council on the persistent violence which a human rights watchdog said claimed 36 more lives yesterday.
“The secretary general remains gravely concerned about the intensification of violence and rising death toll as well as continued human rights abuses and unmet humanitarian needs,” assistant secretary general Oscar Fernandez Taranco said.
“The secretary general has repeatedly underscored that the government of Syria bears primary responsibility to change course and fully implement” the peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, Taranco said.
“A truly joint effort by the council, one that delivers unified and sustained pressure to demand compliance in full with the six-point plan is urgently needed,” he added.
“Otherwise we may be reaching the day when it will be too late to stop the crisis spiralling out of control.”
Taranco told the Security Council the situation was “particularly alarming” in the flashpoint central city of Homs, where human rights monitors say some 1,000 families have been trapped in a bombardment by government forces of rebel fighters.
Syrian forces clashed with armed rebels before dawn in Homs where a soldier was killed amid “intermittent shelling” of several neighbourhoods, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Clashes took place this morning between regime forces and rebels in the vicinity of the Baba Amr neighbourhood which has been under regime control since last March,” the Britain-based watchdog said.
“Columns of black smoke were seen rising from the area.”
A rebel commander from Baba Amr said: “The battles are very tough. We are still fighting, but we haven’t made it into Baba Amr today.”
“Our aim is to take the district back,” Nasser Nahhar told AFP via Skype.
In rebel hands for several months up until March this year, Baba Amr was shelled relentlessly by regime forces for a month.
The head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria, Major General Robert Mood, (UNSMIS) was briefing the Security Council in a closed meeting.
Mood will give “an explanation of the situation, what does he believe is possible in coming days and coming weeks”, France’s UN envoy Gerard Araud told reporters.
Some Western governments are sceptical about the future of the UN mission, which suspended patrols by its 300 unarmed monitors on Saturday because of the heightened violence.
Araud said that if there was a “dramatic new development” then the monitors could be withdrawn before their 90-day mission ends on July 20 but for the moment everyone was sticking to the mandate.
US President Barack Obama and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Monday called for an “immediate cessation of all violence”.
“In order to stop the bloodshed in Syria, we call for an immediate cessation of all violence,” the two leaders said in a statement after meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Putin told reporters that he and Obama had found “many common points” on the 15-month-old uprising against the Assad regime that monitors say has cost more than 14,400 lives.
But there was little sign they had agreed on concrete means to end the conflict, following US frustration at Russia’s blocking of Security Council moves against Assad.
Moscow news reports said Russia was preparing to send two amphibious assault ships and marines to the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russia has a naval base, to ensure the safety of its nationals.
A Russian ship carrying attack helicopters and missiles destined for Syria was halted off the Scottish coast after its British insurer withdrew cover for the vessel.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the MV Alaed, owned by Femco, a Russian cargo line, appeared to be headed back to Russia after Insurer Standard Club said it had cancelled insurance for the vessel.
“I am pleased that the ship that was reported to be carrying arms to Syria has now turned back apparently towards Russia,” Hague told parliament.