DAMASCUS: The United Nations said yesterday that the number of people fleeing fighting in Syria could reach 1.1 million by June, as it warned of crisis “fatigue” among developed nations.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in Tokyo the international community needed to support a $ 1 billion plan, pushed by his and other international groups, to address the needs of those displaced by the Syrian conflict.
Meanwhile, Syrian National Council rejected a proposal by an opposition leader for peace talks with Bashar Assad’s regime.
The peace offering by Ahmed Moaz Al-Khatib, leader of the opposition National Coalition, has been welcomed by Washington and the Arab League.
The Syrian National Council rejected the possibility of any talks, saying it was only committed to ousting Assad’s regime and protecting the revolution.
The United Nations says more than 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which began as an anti-regime uprising but deteriorated into civil war when Assad’s forces used violence to put down protests.
Khatib’s offer on Monday followed his surprise announcement last week that he was ready for talks with Assad’s regime, subject to conditions including the release of 160,000 detainees.
Khatib later elaborated, saying he was ready to meet Assad’s deputy, Vice President Faruq Al-Sharaa.
In the past the opposition has demanded Assad step down before talks can begin but analysts say Khatib’s change in stance stems from a belief the population will be bled dry while the West fails to act.
Arab League chief Nabil Al-Arabi threw his weight behind Khatib’s offer, however, and offered to play a role in any negotiations for a democratic transition.
The US strongly backed Khatib’s dialogue call too, with the State Department saying the regime “should sit down and talk,” while stressing its position was unchanged on bringing to account those who have committed atrocities.
Assad last month announced he was ready for talks with the opposition but ruled out meeting groups such as the National Coalition, which backs fighters seeking to overthrow his regime.
On the ground, a suicide bomber yesterday attacked a military intelligence headquarters in the south-central Syria city of Palmyra, killing and wounding an unknown number of people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Observatory could not immediately give a more detailed breakdown of the toll.
It said that on Tuesday, 106 people died across Syria — 42 rebels, 37 civilians and 27 regime’s soldiers.