UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern over the “highly dangerous” militarisation of conflict in Syria,even as the world body said that over 100,000 people fled the country last month.
The United Nations refugee agency reported that the number of Syrians fleeing to neighbouring countries rose to over 100,000 in August,the highest monthly total to date.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said 103,416 people sought asylum in countries neighbouring Syria last month,bringing the total number of Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration as of September 2 to 235,368,mainly in Lebanon,Turkey,Jordan and Iraq.
Addressing the UN General Assembly Tuesday on Syria,Ban said the conflict has taken a particularly “brutal turn” where the Syrian government forces continue indiscriminate shelling of densely populated areas with heavy weapons,tanks and air assets and the opposition groups stepping up military activity.
More than 18,000 people,mostly civilians,have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 18 months ago.
Ban expressed “deep concern” at the “grave and deteriorating” humanitarian situation in Syria,saying that more than 2.5 million people in Syria need assistance and over 1.2 million people have been displaced inside the country.
“Solving this crisis was never going to be easy. But it has become more complex with each passing month,” he said before the 193-member body.
“Civilians bear the brunt of the violence. The conflict is intensifying. The longer it goes on,the more difficult it will be to contain. The more difficult it will be to find a
political solution. The more challenging it will be to rebuild the country and the economy,” Ban said.
He urged for “common ground” within the Security Council and the international community to help the Syrian people as he lamented over the lack of “unity of effort that will have an impact on the ground”.
Ban blamed the government forces and the armed opposition for their failure to protect civilians and respect the rules of international humanitarian law and asked both sides to abandon military activities and engage in dialogue.
“Those who provide arms to either side are only contributing to further misery,and the risk of unintended consequences as the fighting intensifies and spreads,” Ban said.
“How many more will be killed and wounded,their lives shattered,before President Assad and his advisers are persuaded to change course. How many children will attend the funerals of their parents,how many parents will weep at the funerals of their children,before all parties agree to end the violence and destruction,” he added.
UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said in Geneva that most Syrians are leaving the country because of general insecurity,while some have reported “direct threats”.
In Jordan,into which refugees continue to flow at a rate of about 1,000 a day,the government and UNHCR are preparing for an even larger influx,given reports of increasing numbers of displaced people in southern Syria.
In Lebanon,more than 59,000 Syrians have registered or are awaiting registration with the UN refugee agency,Fleming said.
Turkey currently hosts about 80,410 Syrian refugees and there is still a backlog at the border,with reportedly around 8,000 people waiting to cross and receiving assistance.
Newly appointed Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi would travel to Cairo for further consultations with the League of Arab States before proceeding to Damascus,Ban informed the General Assembly.