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UN chief urges Arab states to unite to tackle unrest in Syria

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres (C) is surrounded by his personal security detail as he steps out of his car during a visit to the Zaatari refugee camp which shelters some 80,000 Syrian refugees on the border with Syria on March 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called on Arab leaders to set aside their differences to tackle the ongoing unrest in Syria, which has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011.

Speaking on the eve of an Arab League summit hosted by Jordan, the UN chief said that division among Arab states were creating instability and breeding conflict across the region.

"When Arab countries are divided, it has allowed others to intervene and to manipulate situations, creating instability, breeding conflict and facilitating the lives of terrorist organizations," Guterres said.

"Arab unity is a very important element in order to allow this region to be stabilized and for... the Syrian refugees to find again a future that corresponds to their aspirations."

Syria's membership in the Arab League was suspended in 2011 after the onset of the foreign-backed Takfiri militancy. Damascus has not made any request to rejoin the Arab League.

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit recently ruled out an early return of Syria, saying any decision was up to the league's 21 current members.

Syria holds some members of the Arab League, such as Saudi Arabia, accountable for aggravating the crisis in the country and hindering efforts to resolve the conflict.

The Syrian government has repeatedly said that it is not interested in returning to the Arab League as long as the group is dominated by some regimes that conspire against Damascus and the Arab world.

The file photo shows a general view of an emergency meeting of the Arab League in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. (Photo by AFP)

Guterres, who headed the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) when the Syrian conflict broke out, also met with women and girls living in Jordan’s Zaatari, home to some 80,000 Syrian refugees. The UN chief said he remembered the first Syrian refugees arriving in Zaatari when it opened.

"How sad it is, how terrible it is, that today we still have Zaatari camp... and that the tragedy of Syrians is going on and on and on," he said.

He urged the international community to boost humanitarian aid to the Syrian refugees in Jordan and other countries in the region.

"I hope that if all countries that have an influence on the Syrian situation are able to come together these refugees that are living here artificially now for more than four years in this camp will be able to restart their lives again, to find jobs, to work, to have a normal life."

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres (C) walks during a visit to the Zaatari refugee camp, which shelters some 80,000 Syrian refugees on the border with Jordan, March 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Different foreign-backed militant and terrorist groups have been wreaking havoc in Syria since 2011.

Thousands have died and millions been displaced as a result so far. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated last August that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the crisis until then.

Damascus has repeatedly accused the US and some of its regional allies of arming and funding different militant groups fighting government forces on the ground.

Over the past few months, Syrian troops have made sweeping gains against hostile armed groups.

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