x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

UN leader urges Arab League to take 'clear and concrete' action in Syria

The visiting UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon urged the Arab League to take a "clear and concrete course of action" regarding bloodshed in Syria.

ABU DHABI // The chief of the United Nations yesterday called on the Arab League to determine a "clear and concrete course of action" on Syria at its next meeting.

The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's comments came a day after he directly appealed to the Syrian president Bashar Al Assad to end the bloodshed in his country.

"I highly appreciate and commend the efforts by the league of Arab states by dispatching monitors, by engaging in discussions with President Assad," Mr Ban said. "I sincerely hope they will be able to carry on. I understand they are going to lead a similar meeting next week. They should be able to have a very clear, concrete course of action."

Mr Ban, who was in Beirut earlier this week for a two-day UN conference on reform and democracy in the Arab world, was addressing the press yesterday at the World Future Energy Summit at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

About 200 Arab League observers are estimated to be in Syria monitoring whether the government is abiding by its agreement to end the military crackdown on dissent. The Arab League foreign ministers are scheduled to meet again this month to discuss the future of their monitoring mission.

The UN estimates that more than 5,000 people have died since the uprising began in March last year. Syrian authorities say 2,000 members of their security forces have also been killed.

Mr Ban, who is on his first trip abroad after being re-elected for a second five-year term, yesterday hoped that a deeply divided UN Security Council will stand together to resolve the Syrian crisis.

"I know there are some differences of opinions among member states of the Security Council. But the number of casualties have reached such an unacceptable stage and we cannot let the situation continue this way," he said.

"It is important that the UN speaks and acts in a coherent manner. I sincerely hope that the Security Council will handle this with a sense of seriousness," he said.

The United States and European nations have strongly condemned the killings in Syria and have demanded sanctions against Mr Assad, but Russia and China are opposed to the sanctions.

The UN chief said it was important for governments and leaders to remain connected to their people or face change.

"Leaders have a responsibility to listen to their people's concerns and needs and guarantee their life in a dignified way. When leaders are disconnected, then this situation is inevitable," he said, reiterating his call to Syria to stop the bloodshed.

There have also been calls for military intervention in the country.