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GENEVA/damascus: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned yesterday that the spiralling conflict in Syria, where some 70,000 people have been killed over the past two years, was breaking the country apart.
“The military solution in Syria is leading to the dissolution of Syria,” the UN chief said in Geneva, asking: “What atrocity must occur to finally stir the world to act?”
With the brutal, sectarian-tinged conflict between the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and rebels poised to enter its third year, Ban called for a renewed drive to halt the strife.
Syria has been embroiled in conflict since Assad’s regime launched a brutal crackdown on protests that erupted in March 2011.
The United Nations says about 70,000 people have been killed, and with at least 5,000 Syrians a day fleeing this conflict-ravaged homeland, the total number of refugees is expected to top 1.1 million soon.
“For two years now, we have seen suppression of people’s aspiration for change, the flight of ever-greater numbers of people from their homes, and the daily escalation of killing, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Ban said.
“The United Nations and our humanitarian partners are doing all we can to provide assistance. But in Syria and anywhere else, we must never use humanitarianism to avoid the tougher choices,” he insisted.
Ban said it was down to all sides in Syria to come to the negotiating table, but urged the international community not to lose focus on the conflict there.
“We cannot change the channel and wish it away,” he said.
“Those with the political power to change things must answer to every mother and every child in Syria. Inaction in the councils of peace looks like indifference in the cauldron of war,” he added.
The UN Security Council’s members have been at loggerheads over how to end Syria’s civil war, with Assad’s longstanding ally Russia, plus China, pitted against the United States, France and Britain, who are seeking a tough stance.
“The Security Council must no longer stand as a silent witness to the slaughter. At long last, it must come together and establish the parameters for the democratic transition that might be the last best hope for Syria,” the UN chief said.
Syria, russia condemn US aid to rebels
Syrian troops retook yesterday a checkpoint on the northeastern border with Syria, captured a day earlier by Jihadist fighters of Al Nusra Front, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.The rebels had overrun the post at Yaarubiyeh in oil-rich Hassakeh province on Thursday after fierce clashes, the Britain-based Observatory said.
“Government forces succeeded in retaking the Yaarubiyeh crossing less than 24 hours after it was taken by fighters from the Al-Nusra Front” and other rebel elements, the Observatory said.
They also “captured half of the city of Yaarubiyeh,” it added.
Al Nusra Front, an increasingly influential factor in Syria’s conflict, also took control of the nearby town of Shaddadeh and surrounding villages in mid-February.
The border crossing was controlled by rebel forces last year before the army recaptured it.
Syria and ally Russia denounced a US pledge to provide direct non-lethal aid to rebel fighters, saying it will fuel more violence in the two-year conflict, which claimed dozens more lives yesterday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the crisis with Turkish leaders in Ankara after Washington said it would provide direct aid to the rebels in the form of food and medical assistance, as well as $60m in funding for the political opposition.
Russia’s foreign ministry said the decision would backfire and encourage “extremists to take power by force.”
But senior opposition figure Burhan Ghalioun said it was the very failure to arm the rebels that “favours the rise of extremists,” saying he hoped Washington would realise this was a “mistaken policy.”
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the US decision was “unfortunate” and that it was time for the opposition to come up with a “well-articulated political programme to be able to enter into talks with the Syrian government.”
A Syrian government newspaper said US and European decisions to back Syria’s rebels with direct aid would only lead to more bloodshed and encourage “terrorism.”