Syrian war ‘one of darkest chapters’ in recent history: UN envoy

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 16 (APP):The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria expressed “profound regret” that the organization has not yet been able to broker an end to the conflict that turned a decade old Monday, saying the tragedy will go down as one of the darkest chapters in recent history.
“The Syrian conflict has now raged for 10 years — roughly the length of (the First World War and Second World War) combined,” Geir Pedersen, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, told UN Security Council via video-link, while calling for new, creative international diplomacy.
The UN envoy said Syrians had been “injured, maimed and killed in every way imaginable – their corpses even desecrated”, with others thrown into prisons or abducted, tortured, “paraded in cages and ransomed”.
He shone a light on displaced Syrians again and again being forced to sleep outside in “baking heat and freezing snow”, as homes, hospitals and schools are destroyed by airstrikes, barrel bombs and rocket fire.
He said civilians had been “denied humanitarian assistance, sometimes under sieges in which perpetrators deliberately starved the population…(and) faced human rights violations on an enormous and systematic scale.
“Syrian women have faced conflict-related sexual violence – from all parties – and the rise in early and forced marriages”, he added.
Meanwhile, citizens are forced to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic with “a depleted and devastated health system”, the UN envoy continued, noting that most children have never lived a day without war and “many have gone without food, medicine or education, or been detained, recruited for battle, injured or killed”.
Over the past decade, Syrians have seen no compromise between incompatible political visions, or any real progress in talks between the government and opposition to reconcile them, according to Pedersen
Moreover, those responsible for actions that “may amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes” enjoy near-total impunity, which not only undermines a peace agreement but perpetuates the “living nightmare” that has been life in Syria, he said.
“All Syrians have seen that the international community has been divided, trapped in geopolitical competition, caught in their own competing narratives, and often focussed on supporting one side (or other) in the conflict.”
The world has not succeeded in helping deliver peace for ordinary civilians, he said, underscoring the need to find a way around a “you first” syndrome that “characterizes much diplomacy” there.
“Right now, there are demands on all sides but little movement on any side”, he warned.
A health worker talks to displaced children about their hopes and worries in Atma camp, Syria.To move forward, the UN envoy stressed that the Syrian Government, opposition and key international players must identify not only what they hope to achieve, but how they can advance resolution 2254, which calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in the country.
“At a time when there are so many pressing challenges, do not lose sight of the fundamental importance of a peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict”, he said. “A political solution is the only way out – and I am convinced that it is possible”.

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