NEW YORK — The U.N. secretary-general told the international community Tuesday that the continuing militarization of the Syrian conflict is “deeply tragic and highly dangerous.” Ban Ki-moon, just back from a trip to Iran, said that regional powers should use their influence to end the violence. Ban urged governments to contribute generously to an appeal to help alleviate the growing humanitarian crisis.
Speaking before the 194-member U.N. General Assembly, Ban Ki-moon urged governments that have been providing arms to the Syrian authorities and the rebels to stop.
“I appeal to all outside parties, especially the countries in the region, to do all they can to end this trend," said Ban. "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.”
Russia has been the Syrian government's main supplier of military weapons for decades. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey say they have sent money and arms to aid the rebels since the crisis began some 18 months ago.
While in Tehran last week for a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, Ban met with Syria's prime minister and foreign minister, and repeated his demand that all sides cease all forms of violence - in particular, that the government end its use of heavy weapons.
Ban reiterated that regional leaders have a key role to play in creating the conditions to find a solution to the crisis, which has claimed more than 18,000 lives and made more than 1 million people homeless. The humanitarian crisis is spreading beyond Syria's borders as more than 225,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring countries. The secretary-general said a U.N. appeal for $180 million to fund urgent humanitarian needs is only half-funded as overall needs continue to grow.
“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," he said.
Ban said it is in this context that the new Syria envoy, veteran diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, takes up his mission, a role he characterized as “daunting, but not insurmountable.”
In brief remarks to the General Assembly, Brahimi said he would leave soon for Cairo to consult with the chief of the Arab League and then go to Damascus. He warned that the situation in Syria is deteriorating severely and urged international unity to help bring an end to the crisis.