Syria; Arab League Summit; Yemen; Libya; and more

Syria: Syria’s president embraced Kofi Annan’s peacemaking effort today, saying his government will “put every effort to ensure the success of the mission.”

Assad gave the assurance in a letter to the BRICS summit, the meeting in New Delhi of the world’s top emerging economies, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.  Al-Assad also “expressed hope that Annan will deal comprehensively with the elements of the crisis, in particular the international and regional ones,” the news outlet said.

Meanwhile, at least one million Syrians need humanitarian assistance, a UN spokesman said Thursday at the end of an assessment mission to the country. The population needs “protection, food, medical assistance, non-food items such as bedding and blankets and education,” the spokesman told a briefing.

A first convoy carrying food, blankets and hygiene kits for 2,000 displaced families people left Damascus for Tartus on Wednesday, the spokesman said. He said more supplies would be sent to other parts of Syria.

Arab League Summit:
In Baghdad today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon  urged members of the League of Arab States to listen to their people and embrace democratic transitions in the region which, since last year, has witnessed a wave of popular uprisings calling for greater freedoms.

The UN chief emphasized that for transitions to succeed, reforms must be genuine, governments must foster inclusive dialogue, women must be at the center of the region’s future, and new opportunities and jobs must be created for young people.

The Security Council today voiced concern at the recent deterioration in cooperation among political actors in Yemen and called on them to remain committed to the country’s transition.

The Council, in a presidential statement, welcomed the “Yemen-led peaceful transition process to a just and democratic political system,” and noted the recent progress, including the 21 February polls that took place in a largely peaceful manner.

The Council noted that the second phase of the transition should focus on the holding of a national dialogue conference, restructuring of the security forces, tackling the unauthorized possession of weapons outside the State’s control, passing legislation on transitional justice, constitutional reform, electoral reform and the holding of general elections in 2014.

: The United Nations mission in Libya has welcomed the ceasefire brokered in the south-western city of Sabha, where fighting in recent days has resulted in some 50 deaths, and called on all sides to address the underlying causes of the violence.

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said reports from the Sabha Medical Center indicate that the fighting – reportedly between rival local militias – over the past four days has also resulted in the wounding of 167 people.  UNSMIL called on all parties to facilitate the treatment and evacuation of all wounded and to ensure the protection of civilians.

The UN envoy responsible for disaster risk reduction today commended Bangladesh for issuing a policy directive requiring that risk assessment be integrated into all development projects, as the country expands its cyclone preparedness to include earthquake readiness. Bangladesh is considered to be particularly vulnerable to a rise in sea levels and intense cyclones; and is ranked, by the Asian Development Bank, as the Asian country most vulnerable to climate change.