UN Urges Syria Accord to End Violence as Assad Forces Attack

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, told reporters today in Jerusalem, “We cannot wait any longer until the political process is finished while many people are being killed.” Photographer: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the international community to agree on a resolution that will help end violence in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces kill more protesters.

At least 47 people, including 15 Syrian soldiers, died today in clashes, according to Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Assad’s forces continued fighting the opposition Free Syrian Army around Damascus, he said in a phone interview, following yesterday’s start of UN Security Council deliberations on an Arab League proposal. The UN says more than 5,400 people have died in the conflict, which is evolving into a civil war.

“We cannot wait any longer until the political process is finished while many people are being killed,” Ban told reporters today in Jerusalem. “First, all violence must stop, and I sincerely hope this will lead to a political solution. That is what I am urging to the international community.”

The Arab-European resolution, which calls for Assad to step aside and delegate a deputy to hold talks with the opposition within two months, may be blocked by Russia, which has offered to broker talks in Moscow. Any plan that calls on Assad to cede power has “no chance” of being adopted, said Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the European Union, Interfax reported.

Dissent Justified

“Russia’s latest step was to offer hosting peace talks between the Syrian regime and the opposition, signaling that our dissent is justified,” said Mustafa Hamitoglu, an Istanbul-based member of the opposition Syrian National Council. “We’re ready to discuss the administration that will replace Assad, yet we’re not going to sit down for talks as proposed by Russia with a regime that tortured us for 11 months.”

Syria’s government is ready to negotiate with the opposition, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on Jan. 30. Russia, whose only military base outside the former Soviet Union is in Syria, has threatened to use its veto if the UN tries to force Assad from power. It blocked a Security Council resolution in December that sought to hold the Syrian president responsible for violence.

It is possible and necessary for the UN to reach an agreement to stop the violence in Syria, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said yesterday.

‘Less Negative’

Russia is “less negative” about pressuring Syria, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said today in the National Assembly at Paris. “I don’t want to sound too optimistic, but this is the first time.”

Battles between Assad’s forces and the FSA, made up of defectors and armed civilians, are also under way in Idlib, Daraa and Rastan, Abdel Rahman said today from London. The army has been leading a wide-ranging offensive to crush the FSA since Jan. 27, he said.

The Arab League will hold its annual summit on March 29 in Baghdad, Ahmed Ben Helli, the bloc’s deputy secretary-general, said today. The 22-member Cairo-based organization suspended Syria’s membership over Assad’s crackdown and imposed sanctions on the government in November.

Last year’s annual gathering was postponed as a wave of popular protests engulfed the region, resulting in the ouster of longstanding leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, while sparking unrest in other countries, including Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.

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