x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UN and USD criticises the Syrian regime's 'unspeakable violations'

Tunisia's president offers Al Assad asylum in bid to end violence, which the UN says more than 7,500 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising began.

BEIRUT //More than 7,500 people have been killed since the beginning of the Syrian uprising and the government's violent response, a senior United Nations official said yesterday.

B Lynn Pascoe, the United Nations under-secretary general for political affairs, told the Security Council that there have been "certainly well over 7,500" deaths, and that more than 100 civilians were now often killed each day.

While this was the highest estimate given by the UN, Mr Pascoe said it was impossible to give exact casualty figures for the Syrian regime's deadly assault on opposition supporters. The international community's failure to "stop the carnage" was encouraging the Syrian government to believe that it can act with "impunity", he added.

"Tunisia is ready to grant asylum to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and his relatives in the framework of a negotiated settlement to the Syrian crisis," President Moncef Marzouki told the French-language daily La Presse. The full interview is due to be published today.

"Tunisia is ready to grant asylum to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and his relatives in the framework of a negotiated settlement to the Syrian crisis," Moncef Marzouki, the Tunisian president, was quoted as saying in a brief article posted yesterday on the French-language daily La Presse website. The full interview was due to be published today.

Tunisia hosted the "Friends of Syria" conference last week, where participants called for an immediate ceasefire and the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria.

Also yesterday, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said Mr Al Assad fits the definition of a war criminal. She stopped short of saying that the international community should make that designation and level charges, pointing out that such a step often made it difficult for a leader to step down. Mrs Clinton was testifying before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the budget for the State Department and foreign operations.

Yesterday, the UN's human-rights chief reiterated calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and for unfettered access for aid agencies to deliver emergency supplies and evacuate the sick and wounded.

Speaking at an urgent meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Navi Pillay said the world must take action to prevent a continuation of the "countless atrocities" carried out by Syrian security forces.

Ms Pillay also reiterated her call for Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court "in the face of the unspeakable violations that take place every moment".

Faysal Al Hamwi, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said sanctions were preventing Damascus from buying medicine and fuel and that such meetings would only prolong the crisis in Syria, before storming out of the room.

"We reaffirm to all those alleged friends of the Syrian people that the simple step to immediately help the Syrian people is to stop inciting sectarianism, providing arms and weapons and funding and putting the Syrian people one against the other," he said.

Esther Brimmer, the US assistant secretary of state for international organisation affairs, told the meeting that the time had come for nations to stop all financial and material support to Mr Al Assad's regime.

"None can deny that Bashar Al Assad and his criminal cohort are waging a brutal campaign of slaughter, bombardment, torture, and arrest that already has murdered thousands of women, men and children, with more killed each day," she said.

"Without a halt to the killing and a guarantee of immediate humanitarian access, this despicable regime will murder many more before this heinous chapter in Syria's history is over."

The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a network of local activists, reported that at least another 58 people were killed yesterday, including 22 in the city of Homs. These figures could not be independently verified.

Paul Conroy, a British photographer, was smuggled out of Homs and across the nearby border into Lebanon, it was announced yesterday.

 

zconstantine@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting from Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Reuters