More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria’s two-and-a-half-year old civil war, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Thursday.
In addition, the secretary-general noted that millions have been displaced inside Syria and have sought refuge in neighboring countries. U.N. figures from May of this year cited more than 1.5 million people who had left Syria for other countries, while 4 million were displaced within their home country. Actual numbers are assumed to be much higher, as the count includes registered persons only. The new death toll is considered a conservative estimate as well.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned in a Thursday meeting with Ban and other U.N. officials, as well as members of the Syrian opposition, that “there is no military solution to Syria.”
“There is only a political solution and that will require leadership in order to bring people to the table,” Kerry said before meeting with the secretary-general at the U.N. Thursday.
Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, have committed to using their influence to bring the Syrian rebel coalition leaders and members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s administration to the table for negotiations in Geneva. Russia is the embattled Syrian leader’s strongest remaining political ally, and has propped up the administration at critical junctures with support in the form of weaponry.
‘[It is] imperative to have a peace conference in Geneva as soon as possible,” Ban said. Kerry cited a Wednesday conversation with Lavrov and told reporters they remain committed to doing so, and “will try our hardest to make that happen as soon as is possible.”
The conference aims to flesh out a plan for a transitional government, as discussed in Geneva during a conference last year.
President Obama’s decision to provide unspecified military support to the Syrian rebel forces, thought to include small arms and ammunition, met resistance in Congress after it was announced on June 13. Obama said he acted in response to evidence showing Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people – previously delineated as a “red line” by Obama.