Ban backs UN presence in Syria
New York: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Security Council to support continued UN presence in Syria as it would facilitate a peaceful resolution to the crisis there.
"A continued UN presence in Syria that goes beyond our important humanitarian work would allow systematic and meaningful engagement with the Syrian stakeholders," Ban said in a letter to the Security Council.
"Furthermore, a flexible UN presence in Syria would provide the UN impartial means to assess the situation on the ground, which would provide the basis for the UN to address the situation more effectively."
The 15-member Security Council approved in April to establish the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) with 300 unarmed military observers, to oversee a ceasefire in Syria and monitor the implementation of UN-Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.
The mandate of the mission has been extended till Aug 19 although most of its activities have been suspended since June 16 due to escalating violence in the country.
The Syrian conflict has claimed up to 20,000 lives since March 2011, according to estimates by opposition groups and the UN. The UN has registered almost 150,000 refugees in four countries bordering Syria.
Ban reiterated his concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria "as fighting in and around urban centres increases".
"The UN cannot discontinue its support and assistance in helping the Syrian people find an end to this crisis," he said.
The UN Security Council is expected to vote on the future of the UNSMIS Aug 16 and will take into account Ban's recommendations.