In his first meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon upon taking up his post, Algerian diplomat and current UN and Arab League peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said he felt “honored, flattered, humbled and scared” about taking up the post, reported Reuters.
The pair met in New York on Friday among a UN officials meeting, in an attempt by Brahimi to prepare for the responsibilities of his post which he takes up on September 1. Brahimi attended the meeting in an effort to start working on a new strategy for approaching the Syria conflict.
“The Syrian people, they will be our first masters. We will consider their interests above and before anyone else,” Brahimi told Reuters.
Nevertheless, Friday also witnessed new updates to the number of Syrian refugees registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The UNHCR’s latest Syrian refugee toll has surpassed 200,000 refugees, mostly scattered around Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
The UNHCR, which had expected the number of Syrian refugees not to surpass 185,000 by the end of this year, reported that this week alone saw an influx of 30,000 refugees into Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
“We are now at a much higher level of 202,512 refugees in the surrounding region,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said on Friday, addressing a Geneva press conference.
Already the mounting masses of refugees are causing enough problems in the countries receiving them. Lebanon, which had gone through deadly sectarian clashes starting last Monday, is still suffering from the repercussions of these ongoing clashes.
Reports of three more casualties killed in the north Lebanese city of Tripoli, where the sectarian clashes have started Monday and not yet ceased, reported BBC news. Among the victims was Sheikh Khaled al-Baradei, a Sunni Muslim cleric who was killed by a sniper shot. The latest killings raise the death toll from the Tripoli sectarian clashes to 15.
11 Syrian refugees’ tents were burnt by unknown assailants in northern Lebanon, according to state-owned MENA news agency.
Edwards mentioned in the Geneva news conference that the number of Syrian refugees currently registered in Lebanon is 51,000.
“The deteriorating security situation in Lebanon is hampering our work to help refugees fleeing Syria’s conflict, though operations are continuing,” Edwards said at the conference.
Inside Syria, fighting between Al-Assad’s forces and the armed opposition continued mainly in Damascus and Aleppo and safety for foreign and Syrian journalists remains in great jeopardy. Japanese journalist Mika Yamamoto was killed last week while reporting from Aleppo for the Japan Press news agency. American journalist Austin Tice, who contributed to several McClatchy newspapers, including the Washington Post, as well as Al-Jazeera and CBS News, has been missing since mid-August, when he was expected to leave Syria.
According to Reporters Without Borders, five Syrian and four foreign journalists have been killed in Syria and 26 Syrian citizen journalists have been killed in 2012. Eight have been imprisoned this year and at least 30 journalists and citizen journalists are currently detained.