Ban calls for ‘appropriate response’ on Syria

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called on UN Security Council members to unite and develop an appropriate response on Syria should allegations regarding the use of chemical weapons prove true.

Speaking to reporters at UN headquarters in New York before heading to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the G20 Summit, Ban said that the issue was larger than the conflict in Syria, adding this was about their 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,’ he said.

He said any decision that was made would be 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,’ the secretary-general stated.

Ban also appealed for renewed efforts by regional and international actors to convene the Geneva Conference, with participation from senior US, Russian and UN officials ‘as soon as possible’.

He said he would 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 are due to arrive at designated laboratories by Wednesday.

The secretary-general disclosed that the Mission, led by Swedish scientist Dr. Ake Sellstrom, had 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.

He noted 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’.

‘The mandate of this team is to determine the use of chemical weapons, whether there was or not the use of chemical weapons. It is not to determine who has used against whom. We do not have that kind of mandate at this time,’ Ban said.

‘This is the United Nations’ decision and my decision,’ the secretary-general said in response to a question from a reporter as to how the mandate was established.

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.