UN Syria Commission Presses for Negotiated Settlement

Negotiations are the only way to halt the civil war in Syria that has grown increasingly violent as it enters its 22nd month, the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria said.

Violence has “increased dramatically” in and around major cities, particularly Damascus, the capital, and Aleppo, the commercial hub, the commission said in its latest periodic update in Geneva today. It found numerous incidents of torture, summary executions and attacks on cultural property.

“As the conflict drags on, the parties have become ever more violent and unpredictable, which has led to their conduct increasingly being in breach of international law,” the commission said. “The sole way to bring about an immediate cessation of the violence is through a negotiated political settlement which meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”

Almost 44,000 people have died since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011, according to the activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The UN commission’s 10-page update covers the period Sept. 28-Dec. 16.

Sectarianism has grown and tension between the Shiite and Sunni Muslim communities in some areas is escalating, according to the report. The sectarian lines fall most sharply between Syria’s Alawite community, from which most of the government’s senior political and military figures hail, and its majority Sunni community, which broadly supports the anti-government armed groups.

The UN commission also said it’s investigating the use of cluster munitions, something the European Union said yesterday has left it “seriously concerned.” Syria isn’t part of the convention on cluster munitions.

The commission said it “strongly supports” the efforts of Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint special representative of the UN and the League of Arab States, to bring Syria’s government and rebels to a negotiated settlement.

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