World has rare moment to end violence in Syria – UN chief

U.N. chief says world has 'rare moment' to end violence in Syria
U.N. chief says world has 'rare moment' to end violence in Syria

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday (November 15) he welcomed the renewed sense of urgency to find a solution to the civil war in Syria after the Paris attacks, adding the world had a “rare moment” of diplomatic opportunity to end violence.

Russia, the United States and powers from Europe and the Middle East outlined a plan on Saturday (November 14) for a political process in Syria leading to elections within two years, a day after gunmen and suicide bombers from Islamic State went on a rampage through Paris, killing at least 127 people.

At a news conference during the Group of 20 (G20) meeting of world leaders in Turkey, Ban described the attacks as ‘barbaric’, saying no country or city was immune from the threat of terrorism.

He said the Syria roadmap agreed on Saturday was ‘encouraging and ambitious’ and urged its implementation as quickly as possible to pave the way for a nationwide ceasefire in Syria.

“I urge the participants to move beyond their differences so that they can push for a nationwide ceasefire, combat terrorism and address key governance and constitutional issues. After years of division this is a rare moment of diplomatic opportunity to end violence and advance the search for a negotiated, political solution,” he said.

Ban said the response to terrorism needed to be “robust” but within the rule of law.

“We will be discussing terrorism at this summit. I will stress to all the leaders that our response needs to be robust but always within the rule of law and with respect for human rights. Otherwise we will only fan the fire we are trying to put out,” he said.

The fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains a key disagreement between his ally Russia and the West. Moscow has for weeks carried out air strikes in Syria in support of Assad’s forces.

The West and its allies including Turkey say Assad must leave office, while Moscow and Tehran support elections in which he could stand.

Ban also called on G20 leaders for support as Europe grappled with tens of thousands of migrants, largely Syrians, fleeing war, describing it as the “biggest crisis of forced displacement since World War Two.”

“This is not only a crisis of numbers. It is a crisis of global solidarity. I pay tribute to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon for hosting over four million Syrian refugees. We must ensure enhanced support to these and other countries accommodating the greatest numbers of refugees, without at the same time from cutting back on official development assistance,” he added.

Ban urged European countries coping with displacement not to reduce humanitarian aid.

“I strongly appeal to European countries, coping with mass forced displacement, not to reduce development assistance to finance the coastal refugee flows. Helping people in need should not be a gruesome game. I urge G20 leaders to heed the growing global call for a recovery plan for the region, perhaps akin to the Marshall Plan in scale,” said Ban.

The world leaders gathered at the G20 summit are expected to have in-depth discussions on Syria, ranging from counter-terrorism to the refugee crisis, during a working dinner on Sunday evening.

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