New York: With the United Nations chemical weapons team working “around the clock” to expedite analyses of samples taken in Syria, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today called on Security Council members to unite and develop an appropriate response should allegations regarding the use of such weapons prove true.
Speaking to the press at the UN Headquarters in New York before heading to St. Petersburg, Russia for the G20 Summit, Ban said that the issue is larger than the conflict in Syria, “this is about our collective responsibility to mankind.”
“I take note of the argument for action to prevent future uses of chemical weapons.
“At the same time, we must consider the impact of any punitive measure on efforts to prevent further bloodshed and facilitate a political resolution of the conflict,” the UN chief said.
He appealed that any decision that is made is done so within the framework of the UN Charter.
The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defence in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and/or when the Security Council approves such action, said Ban.
He appealed for renewed efforts by regional and international actors to convene the Geneva conference – with participation from senior United States, Russian and UN officials – “as soon as possible.”
Ban said he will discuss developments in Syria with world leaders attending the G20 summit.
Meanwhile, all biomedical and environmental samples collected by the UN chemical weapons inspection team in Syria due to arrive at designated laboratories by tomorrow.
The Secretary-General said that the Mission, led by Swedish scientist Dr. Åke Sellström, has worked “around the clock” since returning from Syria over the weekend to prepare the materials it gathered for analysis.
“Since the horrendous attacks in the Ghouta area of Damascus two weeks ago, the [mission] has been working urgently to establish the facts regarding the nature and extent of any use of chemical weapons,” Ban said, underscoring that, as the first probe of allegations of the use of weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century, “the Mission’s success is in everyone’s interest.”
He called for the team to be given every opportunity to complete its task, noting that the UN investigation is “uniquely placed to independently establish the facts in an objective and impartial manner” and to conduct its work strictly according to internationally recognized standards.
During the press conference, Ban reiterated that the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances would be a serious violation of international law and an outrageous war crime.
“Any perpetrators must be brought to justice. There should be no impunity,” he stressed.
Once analyses of the samples are completed, a report will be given to Ban who will share the results with the 193-member Member States and the 15-member Security Council.
Meanwhile, the UN estimates that 5 000 desperate Syrians are fleeing their homes every day.
The spiralling violence in the war-torn country has now created more than 2 million refugees and there is no sign the “humanitarian calamity” will end anytime soon, warned the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday.
“The war is now well into its third year and Syria is haemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs,” UNHCR said. “This trend is nothing less than alarming, representing a jump of almost 1.8 million people in 12 months.”
One year ago, the number of Syrians registered as refugees or awaiting registration stood at about 230 670 people, the UN agency said. More than 97 percent of Syria’s refugees are hosted by countries in the immediate surrounding region. As of the end of August, the number of Syrians registered as refugees or pending registration was 110 000 in Egypt, 168 000 in Iraq, 515 000 in Jordan, 716 000 in Lebanon and 460 000 in Turkey. Over half of them are children under 17 years of age.