UN chief calls on Syria to allow humanitarian access after deadly violence

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that the United Nations would continue to press Syria to allow an independent humanitarian team to be granted access to the cities and towns where security forces have clashed with protesters, many of whom have been killed. Voicing disappointment that the UN has not been given the access it was promised by Syrian authorities, he said that an assessment mission was vital so that the international community can mount an effective humanitarian response to the recent deadly violence.

“I again urge President [Bashar] Assad to heed the calls of the people for reform and freedom, and to desist from excessive force and [the] mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators,” Mr. Ban told a press conference in Geneva.

He reiterated that Mr. Assad should take “bold and decisive measures before it is too late.”

Media reports say hundreds of people have been either killed or detained in recent weeks as Syrian security forces respond to demonstrations that are part of a broader pro-democracy movement across the Middle East and North Africa.

The UN Human Rights Council approved the sending of a mission to Syria to investigate alleged abuses and the Secretary-General today urged the country’s authorities to cooperate with the Council and allow monitors full access.

Mr. Ban’s call today echoes that of Valerie Amos, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, who voiced concern yesterday about the lack of humanitarian access within Syria.