Escalating military activity in Syria is threatening to derail efforts to revive peace talks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon warned on Wednesday as the Syrian regime and Russia intesify air strikes in the country.
Ban called for immideate peace in Syria in his report to the Security Council on the implementation of a council resolution adopted in December which endorsed a peace process for Syria, including a ceasefire and talks between the regime of Bashar al Assad and oppostion.
The resolution plan introduced by United Nations Syria envoy Staffan De Mistura was intended to be discussed on several different dates.
De Mistura first scheduled the talks for January 25 and later changed the date to January 29. However, 17 key countries supporting opposing sides in the Syrian conflict were not able to start talks on Jan. 29 because of continued Russian bombardment of civilians and opposition forces, which have been strongly protested by the Syrian opposition delegation represented by the newly established High Negotiations Committee (HNC).
The foreign ministers of 17 key countries supporting the Syrian peace talks met in Munich as the International Syria Support Group on February 11 and agreed a plan to cease hostilities in war-torn Syria. The meeting came after the foreign ministers' plan to meet on February 25 was cancelled after Mistura halted the talks on Feb. 5 as aerial bombings by Russia and the Assad regime intensified.
Ban said in a 14-page letter to the Security Council obtained by The Associated Press that rarely has the international community and the council been presented with such a stark choice.
Ban, referring to the Syrian war as the "greatest humanitarian crisis of our time," said more than 250,000 Syrians have been killed since the conflict began and expressed hope that implementing a UN resolution, de-escalating violence, fighting terrorism and resuming negotiations was possible.
"The escalated military activity by several parties and the threats to resort to the further use of force risk derailing efforts to find a sustainable political solution and the ability of my special envoy to credibly reconvene the talks," Ban said.
The Secretary General also said, "Those responsible must be held accountable for the appailing crimes that continue to be commited."
A similar statement came from UN rights boss Zeid bin Ra'ad Al Hussein early in February. Zeid said that besieging starving Syrian civilians in towns was a potential war crime and crime against humanity.
A report published by the London-based Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) also said the Assad regime was commiting war crimes as it was not following UN Security Council resolutions.
The rights group’s report gave visual evidence and testimonies of survivors, doctors and civil defence members saying that chemical weapons had been used between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31 last year, mostly in Idlib, the Damascus suburbs, Hama, Homs, Daraa and Deir al Zour.
An attempt in May 2014 to refer the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court (ICC) was supported by 13 council members but vetoed by Russia, Syria's closest council ally, and China. Any new attempt would likely see the same result.