UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he felt shame and anger at the international community’s failure to end the Syrian conflict. ‘I confess to you my anger and my shame. Anger at observing the Syrian government, extremist and terrorist groups and terrorists relentlessly destroy their country,’ he said, according to the text of his remarks released at UN Headquarters in New York.

‘Shame at sharing in the collective failure of international and regional communities to decisively act to stop the carnage that has afflicted the Arab brothers and sisters of Syria,’ he told an Arab summit meeting in taking place in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt. In this context, the secretary-general fervently called on Arab leaders to work with each other and the United Nations to ‘strengthen our bonds for the people of this region and the security of our world.’

In making that call , the UN chief spoke about a raft of ills plaguing the Arab world – from the ‘shameful’ conflict in Syria to the ‘tinderbox’ that is Gaza and the steadily unraveling situation in Yemen.  ‘Today, war and violence in the region, reprehensible acts of terrorism and the seemingly endless Israeli occupation of Palestine, are causing enormous suffering,’  the secretary-general said,  stressing that the impact of all these threats transcends the Arab world and poses ‘a direct challenge to international peace and security.’

‘To counter these trends, we must address the root causes that fuel extremism and violence. Even when security measures are needed, reliance on military approaches alone will not solve these problems,’ the UN chief declared, adding that security responses must respect human rights. Indeed, fighting extremism while committing abuses is not only wrong, it is counter-productive, he added, noting that whenever this has been tried, the appeal for extremism actually increases. Without good governance, the rule of law, respect for women’s rights and all human rights, long-term political stability will remain a mirage.

Nowhere are the problems of governance and radicalism more pressing than in Syria. The Syrian people have now entered the fifth year of a war that has ripped their country to shreds, Ban said. ‘The crisis risks spreading as fast as our credibility risks shrinking. The Syrian people are being betrayed and this cannot continue,’ he said, telling the Summit that he is instructing his Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, to intensify UN-backed political efforts and to consult widely with Security Council members as well as throughout the region, including with the Syrian parties themselves. Specifically, he and his team will work to operationalize and flesh out elements in the Geneva communiqué.

Following this Summit,  Ban said that will head to the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria and he thanked the Amir of Kuwait for convening that vital gathering. ‘I also thank you for your generous contributions. I urge you to do even more to respond to the suffering and misery resulting from the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.’ He went on to note that Lebanon remains unique in the face of the continuing impact of the Syrian conflict, including the growing threat by Da’esh (the Arab acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL) and others, as it stands as an example of co-existence. ‘I urge Lebanese political leaders to overcome their political differences and elect a President to fill the leadership vacuum which has stretched for over a year.’

Turning next to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said seven months after the end of yet another war with Israel, Gaza remains a tinderbox and the situation is getting worse by the day. ‘Neither blockade nor military action has made either side safer. I call on donors to make good on the pledges they made in Cairo last October. Help bring Gaza back to life.’ The Arab-Israeli peace process is further threatened by calls to discard or undermine the two-state solution endorsed by the international community and outlined in the visionary Arab Peace Initiative adopted at the Arab League’s 2002 Summit.

‘Once again, I urge Israel to end what is now nearly half a century of occupation. I urge the Palestinians to overcome their divisions. And I call upon the friends and supporters of both to push for a just and lasting solution based on international law,’ the Secretary-General said. As for the ‘unraveling’ situation in Yemen and the tremendous toll it is taking on an already suffering population, the UN chief said that earlier in the programme he had listened very carefully to the statements by King Salman of Saudi Arabia and President Hadi of Yemen.

‘I share those deep concerns. I have repeatedly condemned the attempts by the Houthis and former President Saleh to undermine political agreements by military force. I take note that military action has been undertaken at the request of Yemen’s sovereign and legitimate leader, President Hadi’ , the Secretary-General said, also recalling the recent Presidential Statement adopted by the Security Council that encourages Yemenis to return as quickly as possible to an inclusive political process, conducted in good faith. Negotiations facilitated by UN Special Envoy Jamal Benomar, as endorsed by the Security Council, remain the only chance to prevent a long drawn out conflict. ‘It is my fervent hope that at this League of Arab States summit, Arab leaders will lay-down clear guidelines to peacefully resolve the crisis in Yemen,’ he added.

Looking further to the west, Ban said it is crucial that the international community continue to encourage dialogue among the Libyan people. UN-facilitated talks between Libyan actors are continuing along multiple tracks, facilitated by UN Special Representative Bernardino Leon. The preservation of Libya’s unity and territorial integrity is essential. ‘In Iraq, I encourage leaders to continue and deepen national reconciliation efforts. I appreciate the League’s support to the people and Government of Iraq in their fight against ISIS. This support also benefits regional stability.’