U.S. restates Assad must go as war enters 5th year

Last year was the deadliest yet in the conflict, with at least 76,000 people - over 200 a day

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Marking the fourth anniversary of the civil war, the United States on Thursday made a fresh call for embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on urged the Security Council to take “determined measures” to end the war.

“For four years the Assad regime has answered Syrians’ calls for freedom and reform with unrelenting brutality, authoritarianism and destruction,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

“As we have long said, Assad must go and be replaced through a negotiated, political transition that is representative of the Syrian people.”

Without the departure of Assad, it would not be possible “to fully stabilize” the country, Psaki said.

“On this somber occasion, we are reminded of all those who suffered and of the brave Syrians who stand up to tyranny and continue to struggle for a future of respect for basic rights, tolerance and prosperity.”

The State Department’s calls come as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that Syrians felt “increasingly abandoned” by the world “as they enter the fifth year of the war that has torn their country apart.”

The suffering continues “under the eyes of the international community, still divided and incapable of taking collective action to stop the killing and destruction,” he said.

Last year was the deadliest yet in the conflict, with at least 76,000 people killed out of more than 210,000 since it began on March 15, 2011 with peaceful demonstrations, inspired by the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia.

Ban’s appeal for action came as more than 20 rights groups accused the Security Council of “failing Syria” despite three resolutions calling for peace efforts, access for humanitarian aid and the protection of civilians.

A plan by U.N. peace envoy Staffan de Mistura for a freeze in fighting in the northern city of Aleppo appears to be making little headway, as the death toll mounts.

More than four million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries and 7.6 million civilians are displaced within the country as Assad’s forces battle opposition rebels and extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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