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UN Leader: 'All the Fires are Burning' as World Neglects Responsibility to Protect

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged today that “all the fires are burning” as he nears the end of his term at the head of the United Nations.

Ban, who steps down at the end of the month and was in Washington on Thursday to thank President Obama, reiterated to reporters at a press conference today in New York that “we have collectively failed the people of Syria.”

“Peace will only prevail when it is accompanied by compassion, justice and accountability for the abominable crimes we have seen,” he said, calling Aleppo “now a synonym for Hell.”

He also warned of the risk for genocide in South Sudan, where fighting is now in its third year as “the country’s leaders have betrayed their people’s trust and squandered a peace agreement; tens of thousands lay dead.”

On “unfinished business” in addition to those two crises, Ban said “that’s hard to pinpoint — there are many, many issues unfortunately.”

“All the tendencies that once violence and conflict happen, they do not know they end. It seems that the Syrian crisis has been continuing six years now, the situation in Yemen and South Sudan and Central Africa Republic and Mali and elsewhere — all the fires are still burning,” the secretary-general said. “The reason: clearly lack of solidarity — global solidarity… there is no such military means — military solutions. Only inclusive political solution can bring a sustainable — sustainable — solution of these issues.”

“I feel sorry that I have to leave so many unfulfilled issues to my successor and member states,” he added. “But at the end of our day, we have to also understand that we need to do much more with global solidarity and compassionate leadership. That’s what I am urging the leaders to engage much, much more.”

Ban conceded that “unfortunately, member states have shown some stepping back from their firm agreement on responsibility to protect.”

“That is why the United Nations international community has not been able to fully and effectively address many conflict issues,” he said. “…When it comes to a situation when the leaders are not willing or not able to defend their own people, then international communities should be able to intervene with necessary resources.”

“…I regret very much that member states have not been given the full support and full engagement in implementing this very important responsibility to protect principle. Again, this is one of the unfinished businesses. We have a good framework. We have an agreement. Then why we are not using these good tools? These tools and principles should fully be used so that we can handle and address many conflict issues.”

Ban, 72, said after stepping down from the United Nations that he’s going to take a few rest days because “during the last 10 years, frankly speaking, I have not been able to take any proper vacations and rest.”

Ban added that he’ll then meet with “as many people as possible” and “really consider seriously how best and what I should and I could do for my country, Korea,” where President Park Geun-hye is fighting the legitimacy of a parliamentary impeachment vote.