|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General, in Message, Urges Syrian Authorities to Cease All Violence,
International Community to Act Coherently to Facilitate Peaceful Resolution
Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, as delivered by B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, to the International Conference of the Friends of the Syrian People, today, 24 February, in Tunis:
I thank the government of Tunisia for hosting this timely conference. The winds of change sweeping the region started in Tunisia, over a year ago. The people of the region are demanding to be heard. I have repeatedly called on leaders to listen. Brute force can never extinguish the yearning for justice and freedom.
The crisis in Syria did not start with calls for regime change. People wanted reform and an end to oppression, exclusion, and marginalization. They were asking for social justice, a fairer distribution of the benefits of development, and the full enjoyment of political, social and economic rights and freedoms. They were met with implacable aggression.
Roughly one year later, the prolonged violence now poses a profound test for the international community and the United Nations in three areas: human rights, humanitarian access and finding a political solution.
First, the widespread violations of human rights. Since the beginning of this month, the Syrian Government has further intensified its repressive policies, and has launched an all-out assault in an effort to crush dissent. The indiscriminate use of tanks, mortars, rockets and artillery against densely populated neighbourhoods of Homs and other cities is unacceptable. I call on violence from all sides, including armed opponents, to stop. The reported presence of armed groups can be no justification for the Government's attacks against the civilian population.
The nature and scale of abuses committed by Syrian forces indicate that crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed since March 2011. The international community must unite to ensure accountability for these crimes, beginning with the forthcoming meeting of the Human Rights Council to consider the new report of the independent commission of inquiry, which has just been released.
Second, the deepening crisis is having increasingly dire humanitarian consequences, in particular in the areas of Homs, Hama, Idlib and Deraa. Families have been confined for days in their homes, unable to get food, water or medical care. Meanwhile, the indiscriminate shelling of civilian neighbourhoods continues, with an alarming number of casualties. The widely reported deaths of foreign journalists amid the shelling this week have shed further light on the horrors being inflicted on the Syrian people each day. Within Syria, between 100,000 and 200,000 people have fled the fighting, generally seeking shelter with family and friends in other towns.
The United Nations is fully committed to responding to the needs of the Syrian people. We have been doing so through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, our primary humanitarian partner on the ground, as well through our agencies, which have been distributing food, medical supplies and blankets. We are now increasing our support to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, as well as stepping up efforts to secure unhindered access to the towns most affected by the fighting, in particular Homs.
We need to ensure that such access is granted by the Syrian authorities in a way that does not exacerbate tensions. I fully support the call of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for a daily humanitarian pause or truce to enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance by the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos will travel to Syria at the earliest opportunity to negotiate access with the authorities.
We are also working with neighbouring Governments to ensure that Syrian nationals and others fleeing the violence receive assistance and protection. We appreciate the efforts of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan in this regard, as approximately 20,000 people have registered as refugees in these countries. The solidarity of the wider international community is also important, and may be called upon to provide financial support as needed. In order to provide donors and agencies with a platform to share information and mobilize funds, we are establishing a Syria Humanitarian Forum that will be co-chaired by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the League of Arab States and the European Community Humanitarian Office.
Ultimately, only a political solution will resolve this crisis. I encourage all to speak with one voice in their messages and actions. It is essential to avoid further militarization and descent towards sectarian strife. We must work to preserve the peaceful coexistence of Syria’s many communities.
I fully support the efforts of the League of Arab States to find a political solution, in accordance with last week’s General Assembly resolution. Each and every member of the international community has a responsibility to help stop the violence and ensure the well-being of the Syrian people.
The Syrian authorities must cease all violence, respect human rights, protect the population, release all prisoners arbitrarily detained, withdraw armed forces from cities and towns, guarantee freedom of assembly and allow unhindered access for outside monitors.
Beyond these immediate demands, the General Assembly resolution also expressed full support for the League of Arab States’ decision to facilitate a Syrian-led political transition. The plan calls on the Syrian authorities and the opposition to engage in a serious dialogue with the objective of forming a national unity government to oversee a peaceful transition to a democratic and pluralistic political system. We will work closely with the Arab League towards these objectives. I announced yesterday, along with the Secretary-General of the Arab League, the appointment of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis. Mr. Annan will provide good offices aimed at stopping all violence and human rights violations, ending the humanitarian crisis and promoting a peaceful Syrian-led and inclusive political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people through a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian Government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition.
Our guiding principles are clear: non-violence, national ownership, democracy, respect for human rights, accountability, impartiality and the independence of humanitarian assistance. I expect the international community to act in a coherent and consistent manner to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the crisis. It is time to end the bloodshed and suffering. I urge this meeting to find common ground and act to alleviate the worsening plight of the Syrian people. In that spirit, I wish you a productive meeting.
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