Syria is now in a full-scale civil war, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said, as the US accused Russia of supplying the regime of Bashar al-Assad with attack helicopters.
The UN peacekeeping chief told reporters that there was an escalation in violence in Syria as Assad’s forces seek to regain control of “large chunks of territory” they had lost to the opposition.
Asked whether he believed Syria is in a civil war, he said: “Yes, I think we can say that. I think there is a massive increase in the level of violence, so massive indeed that in a way it indicates some change of nature.”
His comments marked the first time a UN official has openly spoken of civil war in Syria.
Meanwhile, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton accused Russia, a longstanding ally of Syria, of supplying Assad’s regime with attack helicopters.
“We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically,” Clinton told a think-tank discussion in Washington.
“They have from time to time said that we shouldn’t worry, that everything they’re shipping is unrelated to their actions internally. That’s patently untrue,” she said.
She also warned that the UN mission in the strife-torn country may not survive once its three-month mandate expires in July. “If there is no discernible movement by then, it would be very difficult to extend a mission that is increasingly dangerous for the observers on the ground,” she said.
World powers are groping to find a way to end 15 months of bloodshed in Syria with the toll growing daily despite a ceasefire that should have gone into effect from April 12. Violence killed 72 people on Tuesday alone, a watchdog said.
But Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that military intervention like that carried out by the Western alliance in Libya last year was “not the right path”. UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has been trying to implement his six-point peace plan, which calls for both sides to lay down their arms immediately.