UN chief tells Syria to stop violence
New York: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday singled out Syria's government for censure, telling it to halt its violent crackdown on the dissidents and rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad's regime.
Ban noted that his peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous, recently went to Syria where he "called on the government to end its use of heavy weapons and demonstrate the commitment to end the armed violence”. Government officials have repeatedly said they would honour these commitments. We are still waiting for them to act."
"The government is adding to its brutal crackdown by attacking heavily populated areas with fighter aircraft and helicopters. The armed opposition groups have also stepped up their attacks," Ban said.
Turning to fears of a wider Middle East war, Ban said: "A sectarian civil would also gravely imperil Syria's neighbours," Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan and Israel.
Syria recently acknowledged for the first time that it possesses chemical weapons, but said it would only use them if the country came under foreign attack. This prompted Ban to chide Damascus again: "Let me also reiterate my concern about weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons."
"The use of these arms is prohibited under international law. Any use of such weapons would be an outrageous crime and a major concern for the entire international community. I call on the government to renounce the possibility of using these weapons under any circumstances, and to insure the safety and security of stockpiles," Ban said.
The UN Security Council has been stalemated over Western and Arab attempts to impose sanctions on Assad's government. China and Russia have vetoed attempts to move toward a sanctions regime.
With the Security Council bogged down, Saudi Arabia is circulating a draft General Assembly resolution demanding an end to the violence in Syria, backing political dialogue and transition, and calling for Syria's chemical weapons to be held secure.
However, General Assembly resolutions are not enforceable by sanctions or military intervention. No date has been set for the introduction of the Saudi Arabia-sponsored, Arab-backed draft resolution.