UN officials reiterate call for political solution in Syria

United Nations, Feb 26 (IANS/WAM) As the conflict in Syria enters its fourth year, UN officials have again stressed the need for a political solution to end the crisis, as well as greater efforts to protect civilians and ensure they receive the assistance they desperately need.

“We are in a race against time. More people are slipping out of our reach as the conflict intensifies and armed groups fragment and more battle lines are drawn,” Kang Kyung-wha, assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief coordinator, said Tuesday.

Kang, one of several senior UN officials who briefed the General Assembly on the humanitarian situation in Syria, cited the need to ensure that civilians were protected and able to receive the assistance they need.

Tuesday’s briefing came on the heels of the Security Council’s adoption Saturday of a resolution demanding “rapid, safe and unhindered” humanitarian access for UN agencies and their partners, including across conflict lines and across borders.

High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, speaking via videoconference, appealed for more international support for Syria’s neighbours, including strong financial assistance, for all countries, especially those beyond the region, to allow Syrians to find refuge on their territories and for more third countries to provide Syrian refugees with additional forms of protection, including resettlement.

The conflict has also been marked by growing evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations by Government forces and armed opposition groups, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the 193-member body in a video briefing.

Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), appealed to all parties in the conflict to respect the integrity and neutrality of health facilities and ensure the protection of healthcare workers and patients, in line with their international legal obligations.