UNITED NATIONS - The crisis in Syria was again at the top of world leaders’ agendas Friday during the United Nations General Assembly’s annual debate.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow condemns the violence from both the government and armed opposition, and said the opportunity still exists to take collective action.
“Practical steps to overcome the crisis need to begin with a comprehensive cease-fire, release of prisoners and hostages, and supply of additional humanitarian aid. This would create conditions to start an inter-Syrian dialogue,” he said through an interpreter.
Russia, along with partner China, has used its veto three times to prevent action against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, incurring the anger of much of the Western and Arab Worlds, and paralyzing the 15-nation U.N. Security Council.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said this impasse must end.
“Despite the escalating violence and despite the deadlock in the Security Council, we must not stop working on a political solution,” he said.
Activists estimate that nearly 30,000 Syrians have been killed since the uprising began 18 months ago. The United Nations refugee agency said this week that nearly 300,000 Syrians have fled the violence and registered in neighboring states. Turkey has taken the largest number of refugees, nearly 90,000.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu said it is a “disgrace” that the international community has not taken one “effective action” to end the bloodshed and he laid the blame on the polarized U.N. Security Council.
“It is the inability of the Security Council to act that still encourages the Syrian regime to kill ever more people,” said Davuto?lu.
He said Assad’s regime must go and allow an interim government to lead the country to free and fair elections.
Saudi Arabia’s vice minister of foreign affairs, Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, said the success of new U.N.-Arab League Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi depends on creating a new strategy and a clear-cut plan aimed at achieving a peaceful transition of power.
On the sidelines of the General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chaired a meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People. She announced that the United States is providing an additional $30 million in humanitarian assistance to help those affected by the crisis.