Syria now in full-scale civil war: UN
Published Tuesday, June 12, 2012
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous on Tuesday declared that Syria had begun a full-scale civil war.
Asked whether he believed Syria is in a civil war, Ladsous told a small group of reporters: "Yes I think we can say that. Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory, several cities to the opposition, and wants to retake control."
The international body has previously shied away from using the phrase to describe the violence in the country.
Clashes between Syrian government forces and armed rebels have intensified across the country in recent days, with both sides carrying out regular attacks contrary to an international peace plan led by Kofi Annan.
"There is a massive increase in the level of violence," Ladsous added.
Earlier the UN accused the Syrian government of fresh human rights abuses on Tuesday, including using children as “human shields."
Branding Damascus as one of the worst offenders on its annual "list of shame" of conflict countries, the UN said in a report that Syrian children as young as nine had been victims of killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence.
"Rarely, have I seen such brutality against children as in Syria, where girls and boys are detained, tortured, executed, and used as human shields," Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN special representative for children in armed conflict, said before releasing the report.
UN chief Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement that "intensive military operations" by government forces against the central province of Homs and firing from helicopters on other towns had caused heavy civilian casualties.
Residents and activists say government helicopter gunships have strafed rebel positions in Al-Heffa, a town of 30,000 near the border with Turkey, and tanks were parked on the outskirts.
The UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) said it had received reports of "a large number of civilians, including women and children trapped inside the town and are trying to mediate their evacuation."
The government has repeatedly argued it is fighting a foreign-backed insurgency in the country, with armed rebels killing over 3,000 Syrian military and police in the past 15 months.
Annan, Iran back dialogue
Elsewhere a spokesman for UN-Arab League envoy Annan said he hoped a key meeting to address the crisis in Syria would take place soon.
"We hope that this contact group meeting will take place soon," Ahmad Fawzi told reporters, adding that a date, venue and list of participants had not yet been decided but were "coming together."
Russia has proposed holding a multi-nation conference on Syria to shore up Annan's peace plan that took hold in April but has taken a daily battering as both regime forces and armed rebels have continued their attacks.
Iran also welcomed the proposal on Tuesday, saying it could bring together the opposition and the government.
"We support any method which helps positive talks between the government and the opposition in an appropriate environment, and also suitable reform actions for realizing the people's ambitions," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters at a weekly press briefing.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has pressed for Iran to be included despite strong reservations from the United States, France and Britain.
"All nations should exert effort in the Syrian matter so it can attain appropriate results... The solution is internal and should be carried out without foreign intervention. Annan's plan should be helped," Mehmanparast said.
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Reuters)