Next UN chief Guterres says time to overcome divisions over Syria

October 13, 2016 7:38 pm
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During his address to the General Assembly, UN Secretary-General-designate Antonio Guterres said it was time to stand up both to terrorists and populists, arguing that they “reinforce each other” in their extremism © AFP / Jewel Samad

, United Nations, United States, Oct 13 – Newly-appointed UN chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday said it was time to overcome divisions over ending the war in Syria as key powers geared up for a new round of talks on the crisis.

“Whatever divisions might exist, now it’s more important to unite,” Guterres said. “It’s high time to fight for peace.”

Speaking to reporters after his formal appointment by the General Assembly, Guterres said that “to see the Syrian people suffer so much is something that absolutely breaks my heart.”

The former prime minister of Portugal who also served as UN refugee chief for a decade will replace Ban Ki-moon who steps down on December 31 after ten years as UN chief.

The United States and Russia are to host a meeting of the countries involved in the Syrian peace process in the Swiss city of Lausanne on Saturday to try again to agree on a ceasefire.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry will head to London for more talks with his European counterparts.

“The countries that are key stakeholders will be meeting again to try to walk ahead with the peace process,” Guterres said.

“I can only wish that they will be successful because it is the moral obligation of us all to stop the suffering of the Syrian people.”

During his address to the General Assembly, Guterres said it was time to stand up both to terrorists and populists, arguing that they “reinforce each other” in their extremism.

“We must make sure that we are able to break these alliances between all those terrorist groups or violent extremists on one side, and the expression of populism and xenophobia on the other side,” he said.

“The two reinforce each other and we must be able to fight both of them with determination.”

Guterres’ appointment comes at a time of global anxiety over the ongoing war in Syria, the refugee crisis and raging conflicts in South Sudan and Yemen.

The Security Council is deadlocked over Syria after two draft resolutions were defeated in separate votes over the weekend, one of which was vetoed by Damascus ally Russia.

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