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UN mission chief accuses both sides over civilian deaths

Published on Aug 18, 2012 8:49 PM
Senegalese Gen. Babacar Gaye, the head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria, addresses a press at the Dama Rose hotel in Damascus on Aug 13, 2012. More than 21,000 people have been killed across Syria since President Bashar al-Assad's regime began a brutal crackdown on dissent 17 months ago, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The toll is impossible to verify, and the United Nations has stopped maintaining an independent count. -- PHOTO: AFP

DAMASCUS (AFP) - The departing United Nations (UN) observer mission chief on Saturday accused both Syrian army and rebel forces of failing to protect civilians, as activists report dozens of people killed daily.

"Both parties have obligations under international humanitarian law to make sure that civilians are protected," General Babacar Gaye, head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria, told reporters in Damascus.

"These obligations have not been respected." The general was speaking after the UN Security Council on Thursday ordered the end of the observer mission, whose mandate draws to a close at midnight on Sunday. A team of some 300 truce monitors was progressively deployed as part of former UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's six-point plan to end the conflict in Syria but it was suspended in June and numbers cut back because of the mounting violence.

"By the middle of June, it was clear that the parties were no longer committed to the ceasefire," Gen Gaye said. "The result has been an escalation in violence." But Gen Gaye, a Senegalese general, said the UN remained committed to contributing to peace efforts in Syria. "The UN will not leave Syria," he said.

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