Ban Ki-moon urged the international community to "speak in one voice" to halt the violence
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gives a press conference on February 16 in Vienna. He called for an end to the violence in Syria, both from the government and the opposition, while urging the international community to find a common response to the unrest. © Dieter Nagl - AFP
Ban Ki-moon urged the international community to
AFP
Last updated: February 16, 2012

UN chief Ban urges all sides to end Syrian violence

UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on Thursday for all sides to end the deadly violence in Syria and urged the international community to find a common response to the 11-month-old crisis.

"What is important at this time is that first the Syrian authorities must stop killing their own people," Ban told journalists on a visit to Vienna.

"And this violence should stop from all sides whether by national security forces or by opposition forces."

Ban also called for a united response from the international community to the violence, which has killed thousands of people since President Bashar al-Assad's regime began cracking down on protesters in March last year.

"I urge the international community to speak in one voice: stop the violence. Stop the bloodshed," he said ahead of a UN General Assembly vote Thursday on a resolution calling on Assad to stop deadly attacks on civilians.

"The longer we debate, the more people will die."

Russia, one of Assad's last major friends, and China vetoed earlier this month a UN Security Council resolution condemning the violence in Syria, causing outrage in the West.

Moscow also reportedly opposes the General Assembly resolution, which is not binding.

"It was a regrettable thing that the Security Council was not able to take the draft resolution taking coherent, and in one voice, one action but now this is behind us," said Ban, who is in Vienna for a meeting on drug trafficking in Afghanistan.

But he added: "The lack of agreement in the Security Council does not give the government licence to continue this assault on its own people."

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said earlier this week that "crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed" in Syria since the crackdown began.

According to the United Nations, more than 5,400 people have been killed, while thousands are missing and tens of thousands more have fled the country. Monitoring groups have put the number of dead at more than 6,000.

"We might all agree on a very short-term goal; the stopping of massacres," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told a press conference after talks in Vienna with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

"We must do everything possible to bring an end to the violence and to allow large-scale humanitarian aid to reach the Syrian population."

But Juppe did not offer much hope that Russia would be on board.

He said Lavrov had declined to comment on France's call for "humanitarian corridors" to allow aid to reach the Syrian population.

"There was no specific discussion of the French initiative. From what they said, they have nothing specific at this time," Russia's deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov told Interfax news agency.

"We want to work with the Arab League to implement its plan for political transition," Juppe said, referring to proposals for a transfer of power from Assad to the vice-president and the creation of a coalition government.

Juppe also said France was ready to back the idea of a UN special envoy to Syria.

"If Ban Ki-moon goes that way, we will back him," he said.

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