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.
The latest round of attacks on Syria has compelled Qatar to request an emergency meeting to discuss the air raids on Aleppo
The Assad regime – with Russian support – has continued to target opposition-held areas of Syria's northwestern Aleppo province with fresh strikes killing 7 people
Key issues will be discussed in face to face peace talks between Yemen's warring parties
Unofficial, incomplete results from Iran's parliamentary runoff election show 33 to 40 of the 68 seats being contested went to allies of President Hassan Rouhani
Russia's state-run TASS reports US and Russia agree on 72-hour cease-fire in Latakia starting just after midnight Saturday
Syria’s Kurdish National Council slams PYD parading dead bodies of FSA fighters as 'brutal and barbaric'
'The violence is soaring back to the levels we saw prior to the cessation of hostilities,' UN human rights chief says
'This announcement came after a request from the Americans and the Russians, who met in Geneva to calm down the situation in Damascus and Latakia'
In the first four months of the year, authorities deported 14,400 expats, compared with 26,600 in the whole of 2015
Russian and Syrian warplanes have intensified attacks against civilians in Aleppo’s opposition-controlled areas
'The persistent failure of the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court is an example of the most shameful form of realpolitik,' Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein says
Iranians has begun voting on Friday in a second round of parliamentary elections with allies of President Hassan Rouhani seeking to wrest seats from hardliners.
Sheikh Ahmed Bin Jassim al-Thani proposes free trade agreement involving Turkey and Arab countries
'l could not in any way express how high the stakes are in the next hours and days,' head of UN humanitarian efforts says
'It's no secret that the Syrian army has prepared this decisive battle with its allies. It will not take long to begin, nor to finish,' a pro-regime daily says