UN chief calls for arms embargo on Syria
New York, June 21, 2014
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Syria, describing foreign powers as "irresponsible" for giving arms to the warring parties in a conflict that has spilled across the border to Iraq.
In a speech on Syria at the Asia Society in New York, Ban said he was angry at international deadlock on how to end the three-year civil war that has killed some 150,000 people, forced nearly 3 million to flee and left 10 million in need of help.
He said regional countries have a "special responsibility" to stop the violence and warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that "governments that hope to regain legitimacy do not massacre their own people."
"I welcome recent contacts between Iran and Saudi Arabia and hope that they will build confidence and reverse a destructive competition in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere," said Ban of Tehran and Riyadh's plans to discuss curbing their long rivalry.
International and regional powers have backed opposing sides in Syria, with Russia and Iran supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Western powers and Gulf states backing rebels. The UN Security Council has been largely deadlocked.
Ban warned against air strikes on militants in Iraq, who have seized the north of the country. He said such action "might have little lasting effect or even be counterproductive if there is no movement towards inclusive government."
He unveiled a six-point plan to chart the way forward in Syria: end the violence, protect civilians, start a serious political process, ensure accountability, finish the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons and address the regional dimensions of the conflict, including the extremist threat.
"I urge the Security Council to impose an arms embargo," Ban said. "If divisions in the Council continue to prevent such a step, I urge countries to do so individually. Syria's neighbors should enforce a firm prohibition on the use of their land borders and airspace for arms flows and smuggling into Syria."
However, Russia, supported by China, has shielded Syria on the UN Security Council during the conflict by vetoing four resolutions that threatened action against Assad's government. Russia is also one of Syria's main arms suppliers.
The United States is supplying rebels with "non-lethal" aid such as radios, trucks and training. But some U.S. officials say small arms and anti-tank missiles are also being given.
"On an arms embargo, our opposition has been out there for a long time and it's not changing," Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Friday. "We have the experience of Libya when there was an arms embargo and weapons were flowing freely to various opposition groups and still are floating all over Africa."
Ban said the Syrian people have a right to justice and pushed states standing in the way of a referral of the civil war to the International Criminal Court to "come forward with credible alternatives."
Russia and China last month vetoed a Security Council resolution to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Ban said a June 2012 agreement seeking a political transition in Syria - known as the Geneva communique - would remain the basis for any future peace talks.
He also said he intends to appoint a replacement for Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, who quit in frustration last month, just as his predecessor - former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan - did in 2012.-Reuters