Ban asks top UN official to visit Syria to assess humanitarian situation

Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos on a visit to Niger on 17 February 2012. Photo: OCHA

22 February 2012 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked the United Nations relief chief to visit Syria to assess the humanitarian situation in the Middle Eastern country, where a deadly Government crackdown continues against a pro-democracy uprising.

Mr. Ban has asked Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, “to visit Syria to assess the humanitarian situation and renew the call for urgent humanitarian access,” the Secretary-General’s spokesperson told reporters today.

Ms. Amos and other top UN officials have repeatedly called on Syrian authorities to stop the violence and to allow humanitarian workers to have access to those in need.

Thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the uprising – part of the broader Arab Spring movement across North Africa and the Middle East – began almost a year ago.

Last week the General Assembly adopted a resolution strongly condemning the violence and backing a League of Arab States action plan to try to resolve the crisis.

Mr. Ban met today with Nabil el-Araby, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, in London, while on an official visit to the United Kingdom’s capital.

The two officials discussed the latest developments in Syria and the way forward, including the appointment of a joint UN-Arab League envoy to handle the crisis.

Mr. Ban also met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, with whom he discussed developments in Syria, with the Secretary-General expressing his appreciation for Turkey’s role in providing assistance and shelter to Syrian refugees.

In addition, Mr. Ban met with the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell. During their meeting, Mr. Ban told Mr. Mitchell that he was heartened that the UK Government had raised official development assistance last year despite spending cuts.

Meanwhile, the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has strongly condemned the killing of a Syrian journalist on 7 February.

The freelance journalist Mazhar Tayyara died in the city of Homs, scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the crisis, in circumstances that remain unclear, according to a UNESCO press release issued today.

Irina Bokova, the agency’s Director-General, stressed that respect for press freedom and freedom of expression is essential to any society.

“The world’s eyes and ears on the ground are compromised by the death of journalists, and important information may not come to light to concerned national and international audiences,” she said.

The uprising in Syria is part of a broader popular protest movement that has swept North Africa and the Middle East since the start of last year and toppled long-standing regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen.


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