News / Middle East

UN Chief: Arab League Mission to Return to Syria

UN Chief: Arab League Mission to Return to Syria
UN Chief: Arab League Mission to Return to Syria
Margaret Besheer

The U.N. Secretary-General said Wednesday that the Arab League has asked for U.N. help in sending its observer mission back to Syria, where the bloody anti-government crackdown has intensified in recent days.  Ban Ki-moon said he and the Arab League chief are also considering creating a joint special envoy to Syria.

Ban Ki-moon used some of his strongest language yet on Syria, saying he deeply regretted the Security Council’s failure to adopt a resolution on Syria last week and that it has had disastrous consequences for the people of Syria.

“It has encouraged the Syrian government to step up its war on its own people.  Thousands have been killed in cold blood, shredding President [Bashar Al-]Assad’s claims to speak for the Syrian people.  I fear that the appalling brutality we are witnessing in Homs, with heavy weapons firing into civilian neighborhoods, is a grim harbinger of worse to come," he said.

The U.N. chief, who just returned from a Middle East trip, rhetorically asked reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council on his travels, how many deaths would it take to end the “dangerous slide toward civil war and sectarian strife” in Syria?  He said he is convinced that the deteriorating situation in Syria will negatively affect the entire Middle East.

Mr. Ban said he spoke with Arab League chief Nabil ElAraby on Tuesday about how to stop the violence and begin political negotiations. “He informed me that he intends to send the Arab League observer mission back to Syria and asked for U.N. help.  He further suggested that we consider a joint observer mission in Syria, including a joint special envoy,” he said.

The Arab League suspended its observer mission in late January, after violence intensified.  Some countries, particularly those from the Arab Persian Gulf, withdrew their monitors.

Mr. Ban said he would consult further with the 15-nation Security Council before fleshing out details on such a move, but he said the United Nations stands ready to help in any way it can.

The U.N. chief warned that as the violence escalates, the Syrian leader continues to lose legitimacy and should be held responsible for the more than 5,000 deaths that have occurred since the protests began last March.

On Saturday, Russia and China vetoed an Arab and Western-sponsored Security Council resolution calling for full support of an Arab League plan that demands President Assad transfer authority to a deputy as a prelude to multi-party elections.

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