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Situation worse, death toll rising in Syria, UN chief warns

UNITED NATIONS, July 29 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Wednesday warned that the situation is deteriorating and the death toll is rising in Syria and "the price of this conflict is too high."

The UN chief made the statement as he was speaking to reporters here after he addressed an open meeting of the UN Security Council on the current situation in Syria, where a political crisis broke out in March 2011 and this led to a long-standing conflict.

"The situation continues to deteriorate in all respects, the death toll is climbing, sectarianism and terrorism spreading," Ban said, adding that 4 million Syrians became refugees and the international community has difficulties in shipping humanitarian assistance to the people in need.

"Syria is the world's largest humanitarian crisis," Ban said. " At least a quarter-million Syrians have been killed."

"Terrorism and extremism are spreading" in Syria, he said, adding that the United Nations is leading the international efforts for a political settlement in Syria, addressing terrorism and extremism while providing humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people.

Ban said that the political solution should be achieved on the basis of the Geneva Communique, adopted after the first international meeting on Syria on June 30, 2012. He called for the creation of a transitional government that would lead to holding of elections.

The secretary-general, with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura who also spoke to the 15-nation UN council, said that de Mistura enjoyed his "full support" for his efforts to seek a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

"Almost half the country's people -- 12 million men, women and children -- have been forced to flee their homes," Ban told the Security Council earlier Wednesday. "In a massive cross-border exodus, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq are hosting an ever growing number of refugees, and increasing numbers of Syrians are making desperate flights across the Mediterranean in so-called ' death boats'."

"Atrocious crimes are now almost an hourly occurrence, fed by a lack of accountability for the major human rights violations committed over the past four years and through decades of repression," he said.

De Mistura did not talk to reporters this time, but he stressed "the need for a managed, phased, gradual or controlled transition, avoiding a repeat of Libya or Iraq."

He told the Security Council he has had consultations to date with more than 200 individuals -- Syrians or non-Syrians -- in Geneva and in capitals, and the consultations "reveal a generally shared sense of urgency given recent gains by Daesh and al-Nusra Front," the terrorist groups operating in Syria and other countries in the region.

"Sadly there is still no consensus on the way forward on the ( Geneva) Communique or yet a formalized negotiation," de Mistura said. "At the same time, given the deepening tragedy -- the UN is obliged to keep this issue alive, also attuned to ongoing serious conversations elsewhere in the region and beyond, which may require more time."

On Tuesday, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Stephen O'Brien, told the Security Council that a political solution is more urgent than ever to end the "futile, hopeless" cycle of brutality and violence in Syria, urging the UN body to consider its options through "the eyes of the beleaguered, now long-suffering" civilians.

"There are no humanitarian solutions to this crisis," he said. "Each day that passes without the parties upholding their most basic obligations to protect civilians, and the strong demands of this Council, only results in more lives lost; more people displaced; more people without access to basic services; and a generation of children who struggle to obtain an education or have any sense of a future for themselves," he said.

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