SAY NO TO SYRIA

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AT SECURITY COUNCIL’S REQUEST, BAN EXPLORES A ‘VARIETY OF OPTIONS’ FOR SYRIA

At the request of the Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will soon put forward a range of options for resolving the crisis in Syria.

“No one can predict how the situation in Syria will evolve. We must be prepared for any eventuality; we must be ready to respond to many possible scenarios,” Mr. Ban told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday afternoon. “At the request of the Security Council, I will soon present a variety of options for the way ahead.”

“It is up to the members of the Council to find common cause. But let me say here that we need bolder action,” Mr. Ban added. “We must speak with one voice … we must deliver a clear and unmistakable message: The violence must stop, on both sides. We need a peaceful transition that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people.”

The Secretary-General – accompanied by the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League for the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan, and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil Elaraby – was addressing the media following a briefing to the Council on Syria. Earlier in the day, the three men had addressed an informal meeting of the General Assembly on the same topic.

The UN estimates that some 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 15 months ago.

In his remarks to the media, the Secretary-General said the six-point peace plan put forward in March by Joint Special Envoy Annan, and endorsed by the Council, remains at the centre of efforts of resolve the crisis – but “at the same time, in view of the deteriorating situation, I would welcome further international discussions.”

The UN chief said the upcoming summit of the Group of 20 on 18-19 June in Los Cabos, Mexico, will provide an important opportunity to discuss the crisis in depth.

The six-point plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.

Secretary-General Ban said that along with Joint Special Envoy Annan and the Arab League’s Secretary-General Elaraby, he has seen little evidence of the Syrian Government complying with its commitments under the six-point peace plan, while at the same time, the opposition is hardening and turning increasingly to arms.

“Terrorists are exploiting the chaos,” Mr. Ban said. “Gross human rights violations are multiplying.”

Noting that the killings in Syria over recent weeks is indicative of a pattern that may amount to crimes against humanity, the UN chief said the confrontations in certain areas of the country have taken on the character of an internal conflict, subject to international humanitarian law and possible war crimes prosecution.

In late May, more than 100 men, women and children were massacred in the town of Houla, and earlier Thursday, there were reports of large-scale killings in the village of Mazraat al-Qubeir, near Hama. Observers with the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) have been trying to verify the latest massacre reports – but have so far been obstructed in their attempts.

In his opening remarks to the press conference, Secretary-General Elaraby said that the League of Arab States had asked that he convey to the Council its deep concern that “enough is enough.”

“The League of Arab States has, starting last July, pressed on the Syrian leadership the need to stop the fighting. Nothing has happened. We have tried many things, including deploying observers. Nothing has happened again. Now it is in the hands of the United Nations,” Mr. Elaraby said.

He noted that as the Security Council is the principal international organ vested with the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, adding that was up to the Security Council to take action now.

“The message I brought with me is calling for the Security Council to apply the provision of Chapter VII relating to Article 41 in particular, that is to say, all kinds of pressure, not [the] use of force, all kinds of pressure should be exerted and exerted now,” Mr. Elaraby said. “Fighting has to stop. We cannot let down the Syrian people any more.”

Following the press encounter, Ambassador Li Baodong of China, which holds the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of June, told the same group of journalists that the 15-member Council is behind Joint Special Envoy Annan’s mediation efforts.

“The Council reiterated its full support to Kofi Annan’s efforts and also to his six-point peace plan, and urged full implementation of Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan and UN Security Council resolution 2042 and 2043; and, in particular, the cessation of all violence without delay,” Ambassador. Li said.

He also expressed the Council’s full support for UNSMIS, which is deployed around the Middle Eastern country to monitor the cessation of violence in Syria, as well as monitor and support the full implementation of the six-point peace plan.

The Council’s resolutions 2042 and 2043 dealt with the deployment of monitors, including those of UNSMIS, to Syria.

WITH SYRIA AT PIVOTAL MOMENT, UN OFFICIALS PRESS FOR UNITED ACTION TO END CRISIS

Amid growing atrocities and little evidence that the Syrian Government is living up to its commitment to stop the ongoing violence, United Nations officials today urged the world community to act with one voice to end the crisis in the Middle Eastern country.

“Syria is at a pivotal moment. And so are we,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a meeting of the General Assembly. “Syria and the region can quickly move from tipping point to breaking point. The dangers of full-scale civil war are imminent and real.”

Today’s meeting comes in the wake of the recent massacre in Houla, where 108 people, including 49 children, many of whom were under the age of 10, were killed, as well as reports of large-scale killings in Mazraat al-Qubeir, near Hama, which the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) is currently trying to verify.

“We condemn this unspeakable barbarity and renew our determination to bring those responsible to account,” said Mr. Ban, who added that UN observers, who were initially denied access, are working now to get to the scene. While trying to do so, they were shot at with small arms.

“We join forces at a grave and grievous hour,” he stated. “The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate. Each day seems to bring new additions to the grim catalogue of atrocities.”

There is “too little evidence,” he said, that the Syrian Government is living up to its commitments under the six-point plan presented by Kofi Annan, the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, and many elements of the opposition have declared they will no longer respect the plan.

The plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access for the international media.

“The inability of either the regime or the opposition to engage in any meaningful political dialogue makes the prognosis extremely grave. And the longer this conflict goes on, the more difficult the path toward peace and eventual reconciliation will become,” warned Mr. Ban. “The international community must recognize these realities – and act, with unity and collective will.”

He added that the so-called ‘Annan Plan’ remains the centrepiece of these efforts. “We must continue to support it with stronger steps to ensure compliance… No one can predict how the situation in Syria will evolve. We must be prepared for any eventuality. We must be ready to respond to many possible scenarios.”

Mr. Annan reported to the Assembly that, despite the acceptance of the six-point plan and the deployment of UN observers to Syria, the plan is not being implemented.

“It is your shared interest – and our collective responsibility – to act quickly. The process cannot be open-ended. The longer we wait, the more radicalized and polarized the situation will become, and the harder it will be to forge a political settlement,” said Mr. Annan.

“The international community has united, but it now must take that unity to a new level. We must find the will and the common ground to act – and act as one. Individual actions or interventions will not resolve the crisis.

“As we demand compliance with international law and the six-point plan, it must be made clear that there will be consequences if compliance is not forthcoming,” said the envoy. “If we genuinely unite behind one process, and act and speak with one voice, I believe it is still possible to avert the worst and enable Syria to emerge from this crisis.”

General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser urged all Member States to unite in cooperating with the Joint Special Envoy and to impress upon the Syrian Government and all parties the need for a cessation of violence in all its forms, and for a rapid and peaceful solution to end the crisis.

“We need to have a frank and results-oriented discussion on Syria. Time is pressing. The lives of tens of thousands of Syrians, and the stability of the region, are at stake. The credibility of this Organization is also at stake,” Mr. Al-Nasser stated.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stressed that the serious deterioration of the human rights situation being witnessed in Syria demands the full attention and engagement of Member States.

“People are dying as we speak,” she said in a statement that was delivered by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonovic.

“I urge the international community to unite here in the General Assembly, as well as in the Security Council, and to speak with one voice to all Syrians – including the Government and armed opponents – in order to convince them to pull back from the brink and begin genuine negotiations for a peaceful process of change. There would be a terrible cost for not doing so.”

The Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil Al Araby, said that the League does not call for the Security Council to resort to the use of force or military options, but rather for using political, economic and commercial pressures enshrined in the UN Charter.

“I call for backing and supporting the measures incorporated in the six points to end this crisis and to achieve a peaceful, political solution that will enable the Syrian people to live in freedom and democracy,” he said. “It is not acceptable, ethically, that the Syrian people continue to suffer.”

Mr. Ban and Mr. Annan are also scheduled to brief the Security Council later today on the situation in Syria.

UN OBSERVERS IN SYRIA OBSTRUCTED IN ATTEMPTS TO REACH SITE OF REPORTED MASSACRE

United Nations observers in Syria have been obstructed in their attempts to reach the village of Mazraat al-Qubeir today, to verify reports of large-scale killings there.

“Their mission is being obstructed by three factors: First, they are being stopped at Syrian Army checkpoints and in some cases turned back; second, some of our patrols are being stopped by civilians in the area; thirdly, we are receiving information from residents of the area that the safety of our observers is at risk if we enter the village,” the head of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), Major-General Robert Mood, said in a statement.

“Despite these challenges, the observers are still working to get into the village to try to establish the facts on the ground,” he added.

According to media reports, Syrian activists claim that Government troops and militiamen massacred at least 78 villagers in Mazraat al-Qubeir, located near the city of Hama. UNSMIS dispatched observers to the site early Thursday – while trying to reach the village, they were also shot at with small arms.

The UN estimates that some 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 15 months ago.

In his statement, Major-General Mood also noted UNSMIS’ concern about the restriction imposed on its movement “as it will impede our ability to monitor, observe and report.”

The Security Council established UNSMIS in April to monitor the cessation of violence in Syria, as well as monitor and support the full implementation of a peace plan put forward by the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League for the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan.

The plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.

Later today, Mr. Annan will brief the General Assembly in person, followed by the Security Council and the media, on the latest developments in Syria. Also speaking in the Assembly meeting will be President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil Al Araby.