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.
Countries including Slovakia and the Czech Republic are not prepared to join the call to impose sanctions on Russia over Ukraine.
Tehran says will share information about citizens who boarded flight with stolen passports
The French government rejects the opposition MPs' claims that executive authorities, especially the presidency, were informed of the wiretapping of former President Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog.
The speaker of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People said the body remained opposed to the secession initiative but saw the parliament’s move as a positive step.
Lawyer for former military dictator Musharraf, on trial for treason, ordered removed from court for 'misbehaving'
The women were taken after soldiers without insignia spotted a pro-Maidan tattoo on one of the women's hands at a checkpoint.
Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, now the Navy's top cyber warrior, was cautious during often terse exchanges at a Senate hearing on his confirmation
Kerry and Lavrov "exchanged opinions about concrete proposals by Russia and the United States to ensure civil peace and concord" in Ukraine, the ministry said
Comments were the latest salvo in a long-running and bitter dispute between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA over documents outlining the agency's handling of the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan on Tuesday lost a confidence vote in parliament and will be replaced temporarily by the defence minister, parliament's spokesman Omar Hmeidan said.
Bomb attacks have increased since last year, raising concern about further instability in the Western-allied kingdom
In recent weeks a string of leaders have compared Modi's rise to the emergence of fascism in Europe.
Pistorius is facing separate gun charges for the two incidents, part of the prosecution's attempts to paint him as a cocky, gun-obsessed hot-head who does not like to take responsibility for his actions
Tusk said the European Union would impose sanctions on Russia starting on Monday over its military intervention in Ukraine's Crimea region
A Ukrainian airline plane was turned back on its way from Kiev to Simferopol, the region's main city, and had to return to the Ukrainian capital.
The United States says both the air drills in Poland and its joint naval exercises in the Black Sea were planned before the crisis in Ukraine