World Bulletin / News Desk
U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will go to Syria this week to try to persuade Bashar al-Assad's government to call an immediate ceasefire in an 18-month-old conflict with rebels, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday.
Efforts by Brahimi's predecessor, Kofi Annan, to engineer a ceasefire collapsed within days, with neither the Damascus government nor opposition forces willing to abide by conditions for an effective cessation of hostilities.
Brahimi is to meet Assad as fighting rages in Syria's biggest city Aleppo and government forces pursue offensives to dislodge rebels from provincial bastions elsewhere, causing increasing spillover into neighbouring countries especially Turkey, prompting Ban to warn against the danger of escalation.
"Brahimi is now going to the region again and he will visit several countries and after that he will visit Syria," Ban told a news conference along with French President Francois Hollande after the two met in Paris.
Ban said Brahimi aimed to curb the bloodshed and negotiate a deal to allow more humanitarian aid into Syria, where a civilian protest movement has evolved into an armed insurgency and one million people have been driven from their homes.
"First and foremost, the violence must be stopped as soon as possible," Ban said. Diplomats said Brahimi would first visit Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, all regional diplomatic heavyweights, for consultations before heading to Damascus.
In September, his first month on the job, Brahimi met Assad in Damascus and visited Syrian refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan. The U.N. envoy said afterwards that he had a "few ideas" but no full plan on how to defuse the conflict, which he described as "extremely bad and getting worse".
On Monday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul warned that "worst case scenarios" were playing out in Syria as Turkey's army fired shells over the border for the sixth day running in response to shelling from the Syrian side. Northern Syria near the Turkish border has seen heavy fighting in the civil war.
LEERY OF UNILATERAL CEASEFIRE
Asked how Assad reacted to calls for a ceasefire, Ban said he had conveyed a "strong message" for a unilateral truce.
"Of course, their reaction was what will happen if they do it and the opposition forces continue (to fight)?" he said.
Ban said he was discussing how to provide assurances to both rebels and the government in talks with the U.N. Security Council and countries in the region. "I am getting positive support from the key countries," he said.
He repeated a call for those countries providing weapons to both sides to stop. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have backed the rebels, while Assad's main allies are Iran and Russia.
Turkey has bolstered its military presence along the 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria and responded in kind to gunfire and shelling coming from the south, where Assad's forces have been battling insurgents holding swathes of territory.
Hollande, among the most outspoken Western critics of Assad, said he would push for more punitive sanctions against Damascus in hope of forcing the Syrian leader to the negotiating table.
"The difficulty we are facing is not linked to the U.S. election, but to the division at the U.N. Security Council to take immediate decisions that would be useful to the Syrian people," he said.
Russia and China have vetoed Western-backed attempts to have the Council pass harsh U.N. sanctions aimed at isolating Assad.
Activists say more than 30,000 people have been killed in the uprising against Assad.
Syrian Al-Nusra Front vows to now continue fighting as 'Conquest of Damascus Front'
EU calls for urgent pause in fighting in eastern Syrian city Aleppo to deliver medical aid
US-based preacher Fetullah Gulen’s FETO terrorist group is believed to have orchestrated Turkey's failed July 15 coup bid
Russia's defence ministry has announced a large scale humanitarian aid op with corridors created for resident to be able to leave the city
Resistance forces in Mosul have said that ISIL using Israel technology as well as Sony branded cameras to build and equip its missiles
Plan includes 130 new housing units in two Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem
ISIL terror group reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack
Cairo-based league’s summit in Nouakchott failed to address issues of contention between Arab states, Egyptian political analyst asserts
Egypt’s president meets high-ranking Pakistani military commander with view to stepping up bilateral security cooperation
1917 declaration by Britain paved way for creation of Israel in 1948
Turkish Foreign Ministry condemns approval of 770 new settlements in East Jerusalem
Khebisa works as a freelance journalist based in the West Bank
Senior officers stationed in Afghanistan detained at Dubai International Airport, brought to Turkey
The US has named three al-Qaeda operatives present in Iran, which Iran has denied
Regime planes also struck a storehouse in Aleppo, which has been reeling under a crippling siege by the Syrian regime for the past two weeks