MiddleEast: In Damascus, UN envoy wraps up talks with Syrian parties, condemns violence against civilians

The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria ended today a three-day visit to Damascus, which took place in the framework of the current consultations aimed at operationalizing the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012.

Staffan Damistura 1706Damascus, June 17, 2015.- While in the capital, Staffan de Mistura met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem.

According to a UN spokesperson, he stressed that the heavy bombings by Government forces on Tuesday night on Douma, which caused significant civilian casualties, calls for a “strong condemnation.”

“No context justifies the indiscriminate targeting of civilian areas or the use of collective punishment by a Government,” he said.

Mr. de Mistura emphasized the necessity of protecting civilians, underlining once again that the use of barrel bombs is “unacceptable,” and that it is an obligation under international humanitarian law for any government, “in all circumstances,” to protect its civilians.

While in Damascus, the Special Envoy also reaffirmed his strong condemnation of the attacks on civilians by armed opposition forces that coincided with his presence in the country, such as Monday’s attacks in Aleppo, which caused significant civilian casualties and yesterday’s mortar shelling that hit central Damascus.

In the course of his meetings, the Special Envoy furthermore underscored the dire humanitarian situation on the ground and insisted on greater access to besieged areas and conflict-affected communities, particularly in light of the month of Ramadan.

In Syria, Mr. de Mistura also met with more than 30 political parties, religious figures and civil society organisations.

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