Stakes for Syrian civilians could not be higher: UN humanitarian chief

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Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator speaks at Security Council meeting on The situation in the Middle East. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The stakes for Syrian civilians as warring parties engage in the latest round of peace talks could not be higher, said the UN relief chief on Thursday.

Humanitarian Coordinator Stephen O'Brien was updating the Security Council on the latest developments, as the battered country enters its seventh year of war.

Hundreds of thousands have died, with crimes against humanity–and war crimes–having been committed by "all parties, time and again," said Mr O'Brien.

Dianne Penn has more.

Mr O'Brien echoed the words of UN chief António Guterres that peace was a "moral imperative" for Syria's people and for the world, "that cannot wait."

He said the "particularly gruesome and protracted conflict" needed a political resolution like never before, and all eyes were on the latest UN-led talks taking place in Geneva.

"I cannot emphasize enough how high the stakes are. The Syrian people need to see a tangible improvement in their daily lives because quite frankly, it is they who have borne the brunt of this conflict. It is my hope and the hope of every humanitarian to see the current political process succeed and we are fully behind the Secretary-General, his Special Envoy de Mistura, and his team."

The relief chief said that the world's attention had moved away from Syria following the battle for Aleppo, despite the fact that the last few months had been "among the worst" of the war for civilians.

He called on all parties gearing up to retake the ISIL terrorist stronghold of Raqqa to remember their obligation to protect civilians under international law, and he said the UN and partners would scale-up humanitarian aid to whatever level was needed.

Mr O'Brien said that critical access to hard-to-reach and besieged areas of Syria remained a serious problem, and he appealed for Security Council members to "do their part" in persuading warring parties to help the UN reach needy civilians.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1'28″

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