Syria's regime and opposition have reached a breakthrough at the start of peace talks held in Geneva

Syria peace talks reach breakthrough

Syria's regime and opposition have agreed that women and children can leave the besieged city of Homs, but relations remain fragile.

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UN: One million Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon

A "devastating milestone" has been reached with one million Syrian refugees now in Lebanon which has had a "staggering" impact on the country, the United Nations said.

Syrian refugees in the border town of Arsal, Lebanon. Credit: REUTERS/Hassan Abdallah

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said: "The influx of a million refugees would be massive in any country. For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering.

"The Lebanese people have shown striking generosity, but are struggling to cope.

"Lebanon hosts the highest concentration of refugees in recent history. We cannot let it shoulder this burden alone."

Refugees from Syria now equal one quarter of Lebanon's population, according to UN figures.

Read: First Syrian refugees 'at grave' risk arrive in UK

Over half of all chemical weapons removed from Syria

Over half of all of Syria's chemical weapons inventory has been shipped out of the country, the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have said.

A U.N. chemical weapons expert gathers evidence in Damascus.
A U.N. chemical weapons expert gathers evidence in Damascus. Credit: A U.N. chemical weapons expert gathers evidence in Damascus.

It said a total of 53.6% of all chemical weapons material accounted for had been removed from or had been destroyed.

The group have asked to be given until April 27 to complete the full removal of the chemicals, which would put the mission two-and-a-half months behind schedule.

Read more on the current situation in Syria

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Russia may 'unleash full blown military intervention'

Russia may be preparing a further military incursion to Ukrainian territory, Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yurii Klymenko, told UN diplomats at a briefing on the human rights situation in Ukraine, saying:

There are indications that Russia is on its way to unleash a full blown military intervention in Ukraine's east and south.

The statement was widely supported by other ambassadors, but challenged by a Russian diplomat, who read a prepared statement justifying Russia's actions so far.

Russia vetoes UN resolution condemning referendum

Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution that declared a planned referendum on the status of Ukraine's Crimea region "can have no validity" and urged nations and international organizations not to recognize it.

An election commission official takes part in the preparations for a referendum at the polling station in the Crimean town of Simferopol.
An election commission official takes part in the preparations for a referendum at the polling station in the Crimean town of Simferopol. Credit: Reuters

The Russian veto of the draft resolution, drawn up by the United States, was expected.

Moscow, which has sent military forces to the Crimea, is backing Sunday's referendum, which would transfer control of the region from Ukraine to Russia.

The brief resolution noted that the referendum was not backed by the Ukrainian government in Kiev.

"This referendum can have no validity, and cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of Crimea," it states. It calls on "all states, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of Crimea on the basis of this referendum."

Cameron calls for UN probe into Sri Lanka 'atrocities'

Sri Lankan army commandos march during the War Victory Parade in Colombo. Credit: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte

David Cameron is pushing for an independent, international investigation into alleged atrocities during the Sri Lankan civil war to begin within a year as pressure mounts on the regime in Colombo.

The Prime Minister has personally sought the support of several fellow leaders for a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution authorising a UN-led probe.

As many as 40,000 civilians are estimated to have died in the final months of the Sri Lankan government's 26-year fight with Tamil Tiger separatists - which ended in 2009.

Both sides in the brutal conflict are accused of widespread human rights abuses - including executions and rapes of prisoners by state troops.

More: David Cameron delivers Sri Lankan president ultimatum

US ambassador highlights 'disturbing day in Ukraine'

US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power wrote on Twitter:

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Disturbing day in #Ukraine, starting with reports that—in addition to SE Serry's harassment on Wed—the @osce team was blocked from #Crimea.

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The proposed referendum on the future of #Crimea would violate the Ukranian constitution. The U.S. will not recognize its results.

Read: International community condemns Crimean vote to join Russia

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'Incident example of how serious situation has become'

United Nations special envoy John Serry has exclusively told ITV News that his ordeal is an example of how serious the situation has become in Ukraine's Crimea region.

Mr Serry was forced to take refuge in a coffee shop with journalists from ITV News after being confronted by armed men.

"I think this incident is just an example of how serious the situation has become and my hope is that everybody will realise that this situation is very urgent now and we must find a way to de-escalate the situation here," Mr Serry said inside the business lounge at Simeferopol airport.

"That is the lesson of what happened to me."

Read: UN envoy and ITV News journalists trapped by local militia in Crimea cafe

Serry: Urgent Crimea situation must be de-escalated

John Serry says something needs to be done to "de-escalate" the "very urgent" situation in Crimea, after he was forced to leave the region following his confrontation with unidentified armed men and angry pro-Russia protesters.

Mr Serry added that he hoped all citizens in Crimea can "start to feel safe again".

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The situation is very urgent now and we need to find a way to de-escalate the tension - UN's Robert Serry tells us before flying out.

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I hope that soon all citizens in #Crimea can start to feel safe again - last thought from UN's Robert Serry to @itvnews. #Ukraine

Serry: Crimea departure shows seriousness of situation

UN special representative Robert Serry has said his forced departure from Crimea reflects the seriousness of the situation in the region as he spoke to ITV News' Europe Editor James Mates.

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We have a second exclusive interview tonight with UN envoy Robert Serry, inside the business lounge at Simferopol airport. #Crimea

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UN's Robert Serry tells us he feels for the people of #Crimea and the fact he's being forced to leave shows how serious the situation is.

Read: UN envoy and ITV News journalists trapped by local militia in Crimea cafe

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