News24

Syria in grim spiral - UN envoy

2012-09-17 21:09

New York - President Bashar Assad's government forces have stepped attacks on civilian areas in Syria, a UN envoy said on Monday, warning that the conflict had now become stuck in a "grim spiral of violence."

The United Nations fears "dangerous implications" for Syria's neighbours as the civil war worsens, Robert Serry, UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the UN Security Council.

"The violence and killing continue to mount as a result of a dangerous militarisation of the conflict," Serry told a council meeting on the Middle East.

"Military operations have broadened encompassing all major cities. Indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas by government forces with heavy weapons, tanks and air assets has increased," Serry said.

Operations by opposition groups have also "intensified", he added.

Syrian activists say more than 27 000 people have died since an uprising against Assad started in March last year. The United Nations says more than 20 000 have died but is increasingly worried that international divisions on the conflict could help it spread.

UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is to brief the UN Security Council in the coming days on his meetings with Assad and other Syrian officials in Damascus.

While the Syrian opposition has said Brahimi's efforts to end the conflict will fail, Serry said: "As we are facing a grim spiral of violence, our objectives remain the same: to stop the bloodshed and human rights violations, to alleviate human suffering and to seek a political solution."

"As conditions deteriorate, we see dangerous implications for Syria's neighbours," Serry said.

The United Nations has protested to Syria over operations by government forces inside a UN-patrolled safety zone between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights, he said.

The Israeli military started three weeks ago to toughen security on its side of the zone, the envoy added.

Serry said that the border between northern Lebanon and Syria, where there have been several shellings into Lebanon, is "tense".