UN chief calls for arms embargo on Syria

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today appealed to the powerful Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Syria, stressing that it is "essential" to stem the flow of arms pouring into the war-torn country.

PTI| Last Updated: Jun 21, 2014, 01:48 AM IST

New York: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today appealed to the powerful Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Syria, stressing that it is "essential" to stem the flow of arms pouring into the war-torn country.

Ban termed as "irresponsible" the continued military support by foreign powers to groups in Syria that are committing "atrocities and flagrantly violating international principles of human rights".

In a strong rebuke to the world`s indifference to the bloodshed in Syria, Ban said in his address to the Asia Society here today that the Syrian government`s indiscriminate use of barrel bombs, missiles and artillery, mortar attacks by the opposition forces and terrorist tactics by extremists, highlight the urgent need to stop the killing and destruction.

"It is essential to stem the flow of arms pouring into the country. It is irresponsible for foreign powers and groups to give continued military support to parties in Syria that are committing atrocities and flagrantly violating international principles of human rights and international law.

"I urge the Security Council to impose an arms embargo. If divisions in the Council continue to prevent such a step, I urge countries to do so individually whatever they can to impose this arms embargo.
"Syria`s neighbours should enforce a firm prohibition on the use of their land borders and airspace for arms flows and smuggling into Syria," Ban said in his impassioned address.

He noted that while an arms embargo "at this time" would risk freezing an imbalance in place, given the extent and capacity of the Syrian Government`s weaponry, the "Syrian war cannot be won by militarily means.

"Ban called for the parties in the Syrian conflict to "sit across from each other again at the negotiating table" adding that increasing numbers of Syrians are taking matters into their own hands and negotiating agreements to stop the fighting in their own neighbourhoods.

Spotlighting the worsening of the already horrifying war in Syria, "which continues to bleed beyond its borders," Ban rejected the notion that a military solution is the only way to end the crisis and offered a "principled and integrated" approach that would end the violence, jumpstart political talks and sow the seeds for a better future for Syria.

"We must act. All the values for which we stand, and all the reasons for which the United Nation exist are at stake, here and now, across the devastated landscape that is Syria today," Ban said urging the international community not to abandon the people of Syria and the region to ?never-ending waves of cruelty and crisis.

Expressing disappointment at the "cold calculation that seems to be taking hold" ? that little can be done except to arm the parties and watch the conflict rage, the UN chief painted a grim picture of what such indifference and cynicism has wrought since the conflict broke out in 2011, noting that the death toll may now be well over 150,000.

The UN had stopped releasing figures because it became "impossible to count all the bodies" ? half the country`s population has been displaced and the makeshift prisons continue to swell with detainees, he said.

"It did not have to be this way," said the UN chief, recalling that three years ago, when thousands of Syrians began peaceful protests, calling not for regime change, but reform, they had been carrying banners, not weapons.

He said that the government`s response had been "merciless" as snipers and tanks fired indiscriminately into the crowds. Repeated appeals to President Bashar Al Assad fell on deaf ears and eventually protestors took up arms.

"Syrians turned against each other. Regional powers became involved. Radical groups gained a foothold. Syria today is increasingly a failed State. These bleak prospects have darkened further with the flare-up of violence and sectarian tensions in Iraq.

"Suddenly, the cohesion and integrity of two major countries, not just one, is in question," said the Secretary-General, stressing that against such a backdrop the time is "long past" for the global community, particularly the Security Council, to uphold its responsibilities.

The UN chief set out a six-point strategy, which he said could "chart a principled and integrated way forward to international action," with the immediate priority of ending the violence.

Calling for scaled up efforts to ease the humanitarian suffering and protect human rights and dignity, the Secretary-General said barely a third of the funding needed to address the deepening crisis had been provided.

He called on the Syrian government to end siege warfare on civilian areas and for both the government and the armed opposition to immediately release individuals that have been detained arbitrarily.
"We desperately needs new efforts to start a serious political process for a new Syria," said Ban.

The 2012 Geneva Communique had set out a clear roadmap for a democratic transition and remains the basis for any peaceful settlement. "However, the warring parties systematically blocked the tireless efforts of two of the world`s leading diplomats, Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi."

While Syria`s neighbours were showing "remarkable resilience and generosity" in hosting the massive influx of refugees, he said that the already heightened economic, social and political strains in recipient countries could intensify. He noted that the Syrian conflict has now spread visibly and devastatingly to Iraq, with flows of arms and fighters across a porous border.

"Here, too, while responding to a very real danger, one must also guard against a narrative that fails to see the legitimate grievances of all the country`s people, and pursues a sectarian agenda," he said.

"The ISIS is a threat to all communities in Iraq; all should now work together. Moderate Sunnis should make it clear that they are against terrorism. Kurds should not be seen as disengaging or benefitting from the ongoing chaos. And Shias should agree that the army is a national institution. Sectarian warfare is a disaster for all," he added.