UNITED NATIONS — There is no prospect of an end to the 21-month conflict in Syria or the start of a political dialogue between the government and opposition, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday.
He told a year-end news conference that the only way to stop the violence is a political settlement, and he again urged the deeply divided U.N. Security Council which has been paralyzed since the start of the conflict to unite and “give a very strong political direction” to the opposing sides.
“Syria began the year in conflict, and ends the year in war,” Ban said. “Day by day, the death toll has climbed. Month by month, the regional spillover has grown.”
Earlier, the Security Council extended the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping force separating Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights and warned that recent incidents across the cease-fire line have shown the potential for escalating tensions.
A recent report by the secretary-general cited daily clashes between the Syrian army and opposition fighters in the area of separation and several incidents of direct and indirect fire at U.N. positions and convoys.
The resolution adopted unanimously by the council expressed “grave concern” at the presence of Syrian troops and unauthorized military equipment in the area of separation and “serious concern” at the presence of opposition fighters in the area.
The U.N. Disengagement Observer Force, known as UNDOF, was established in 1974, following the 1973 Yom Kippur war, to monitor the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967, and Syria wants the land returned in exchange for peace.
The resolution, co-sponsored by the United States and Russia, extends the mandate of the 1,036-strong force until June 30.
U.N. political chief Jeffrey Feltman told the council after the vote that “violence and military confrontation have escalated dangerously” in Syria.
“If nothing is done to change the current dynamic, and to move toward a political solution, the destruction of Syria will be the likely outcome,” he warned.
Feltman said longstanding fears that the Syrian conflict would spill over and seriously threaten the stability and security of its neighbors “have intensified,” noting that it has already directly affected UNDOF’s area of operation.
Ban said more than 500,000 Syrians have fled the fighting and the number of refugees will grow as the conflict intensifies and winter takes hold.
He urged the international community to support an appeal launched Wednesday in Geneva by the U.N. refugee agency and its partners for US $1 billion to support refugees fleeing Syria to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.
U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said Monday that she asked the Syrian government to allow the U.N. to import fuel so it can move around Syria and step up humanitarian aid. U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Amos was informed Wednesday that the Council of Ministers has approved the U.N. request.