By: Insider on August 08, 2012 Mali: The SG urged the Security Council today to take more action, including travel and financial sanctions, on the “deeply troubling situation” in Mali during this morning’s SC meeting on peace and security in Africa. The SG noted that the situation in the West African nation takes “one alarming turn after another” and urges the Malian government to develop a comprehensive political strategy to bring peace to the country. In the meantime, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has decided to deploy an ECOWAS Standby Force to Mali and to send a Technical Assessment Mission to the capital, Bamako, to prepare for its deployment. SG on Hostage-Taking: After being asked about Iranian citizens being held in Syria and Libya during the noon briefing, the Spokesperson said that a letter from the Government of Iran requesting the assistance of the Secretary-General has been received. As a matter of principle, the Secretary-General condemns any taking of hostages, and calls for the humane treatment, prompt and unconditional release, and safe return of any abductees, Iranians or others, being held against their will. Afghanistan: The 2012 Midyear Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, published today, reports a 15 per cent decrease in conflict-related civilian casualties in Afghanistan compared to last year. Conflict-related violence in the country, however, is still having devastating consequences for civilians despite the decrease in casualties; the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) stressed that more needs to be done protect civilians. Syria: France announced today that the delegation will organize a Security Council meeting for foreign ministers on the crisis in Syria on August 30 on the grounds that the 15-nation body “cannot remain silent in the face of the tragedy playing out in Syria,” according to a statement released today by the French Foreign Ministry. The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, will lead the meeting.