UN sec-gen urges united front on Syria

BEIRUT (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging the often divided Security Council "to stand united and take concrete steps to urgently end this tragedy."

He called for swift action to protect civilians, prevent further instability across Syria and forge "a durable political solution" to the seven-year conflict.

The U.N. chief said he "profoundly" regrets that the council resolution adopted Feb. 24 demanding a cease-fire throughout Syria without delay to deliver humanitarian aid and evacuate the wounded and critically ill "has not been implemented."

He expressed deep concern in a statement Friday at "the desperation shown by the people fleeing in a massive exodus from eastern Ghouta and Afrin."

Guterres stressed that any evacuation of civilians must be safe and voluntary.

He said the U.N. and its partners "are fully mobilized to bring immediate life-saving relief to all those in need."

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters the U.N. visited three of the collective shelters in the Damascus area where people who left eastern Ghouta arrived today and is delivering emergency items including food, mattresses, blankets and hygiene kits.

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