Ban Ki Moon calls on Syrian gov't to stop using heavy weapons


Syrian refugee children receive aid distributed by an aid organization at the Zaatari refugee camp, located outside the northern Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, on August 15, 2012.


Khalil Mazraawi

During a meeting in Iran on Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon told Syria's prime minister and foreign minister that their government must stop using heavy weapons against opposition forces within the country, AFP reported.

Ban called generally for a halt to violence inside Syria, but singled out the government as the group most able to limit it during a meeting with Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, AFP said. "... The primary responsibility [rests] on the government to halt its use of heavy weapons," Ban said, according to AFP.

The UN chief and leaders from around the world were gathered in Tehran this week for the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. According to AFP, Ban said he had "strong assurance from Iran" that it would support his aims for Syria.

The UN press office released a statement Friday saying that Ban told Muallem, the foreign minister, "that he was 'extremely concerned' about the extent of destruction in Syria and the scale of civilian suffering." Ban is continuing to urge a political solution to the crisis in Syria, according to the UN.

The UN said that the primary discussion topic between the men concerned the humanitarian situation in Syria, "with Mr. Ban urging the Syrian official to allow a greater number of humanitarian partners to operate so that aid can reach those who desperately need it."

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday that basic living conditions for Syrian civilians are deteriorating rapidly, Reuters reported. "Assisting the fast-growing number of needy people is a top priority," the ICRC said, according to Reuters.

On Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad roundly dismissed the idea of buffer zones inside Syria that would enable humanitarian operations, an idea supported especially by Turkey, which is struggling under the strain of supporting tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and has now closed its borders to them.

On Thursday, Turkey's proposal "sank like a stone" at a UN Security Council meeting, the Associated Press wrote.

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