New peace envoy says Syria death toll 'staggering'
ALEPPO, Syria – New UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has said the death toll in Syria is "staggering" and the destruction "catastrophic" and called for a united stance from the international community.
In his first comments to the United Nations General Assembly since replacing Kofi Annan as special envoy on Saturday, Brahimi warned that the 18-month old war was "deteriorating steadily."
The former Algerian foreign minister said that a coordinated international approach on Syria was "indispensable and very urgent" and that he would travel to Damascus in a few days.
"The death toll is staggering, the destruction is reaching catastrophic proportions and the suffering of the people is immense," he said in a speech on Tuesday to the 193-member assembly in New York.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon in his address to the assembly denounced countries sending arms to Syria.
"Those who provide arms to either side are only contributing to further misery – and the risk of unintended consequences as the fighting intensifies and spreads," Ban said.
He did not name any country but Russia is President Bashar al-Assad's main arms supplier while UN officials say Iran has made arms deliveries to his forces.
Assad has accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey of arming the opposition.
On the ground in Syria, Red Cross chief Peter Maurer launched a mission on Tuesday to seek greater protection for civilians, as activists said rebel-held areas of the besieged city of Aleppo faced severe food shortages.
Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, met Assad in Damascus and expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in the country, ICRC spokesman Hisham Hassan said.
In the meeting, he urged respect for international humanitarian law and stressed the need to ensure the ICRC could swiftly provide aid such as medical supplies and equipment to restore damaged water infrastructure.
State television said Assad assured Maurer that he supported the work of the Red Cross in Syria "as long as it remains impartial and independent."
Maurer's visit, his first since taking over the post on July 1, came amid a surge in violence across Syria, where according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights more than 5,000 people were killed in August alone.
Over 100,000 people fled the war-torn country in August to seek refuge in neighbouring states, the UN refugee agency said, the highest monthly figure
since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011.
The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on information from a network of activists on the ground, said at least 113 people, 81 of them civilians, were killed across Syria on Tuesday.AFP