SEOUL – The use of any chemical weapons in Syria would amount to a “crime against humanity” and there would be “serious consequences” for the perpetrators, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, while urging an immediate investigation on this matter.
“Any use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anybody, under any circumstances, would violate international law,” Mr. Ban said ahead of a meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea (ROK) on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“Such a crime against humanity should result in serious consequences for the perpetrator. Once again, I call for an immediate investigation of this latest incident.”
A UN team is currently in Syria spending up to 14 days, with a possible extension, probing the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Government at Khan al-Asal, as well as two other allegations reported by Member States.
Yesterday, Mr. Ban called on the Syrian Government to extend its full cooperation so that the team, led by Swedish scientist Åke Sellström, can swiftly investigate the incident, which occurred on the morning of 21 August. Mr. Ban has also instructed the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, to travel to Damascus.
“I can think of no good reason why any party – either Government or opposition forces – would decline this opportunity to get to the truth of the matter,” Mr. Ban said.
Since fighting began in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad as many as 100,000 people have been killed, almost 2 million have fled to neighbouring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced. In addition, at least 6.8 million Syrian require urgent humanitarian assistance, half of whom are children.
Mr. Ban stressed that “there is no time to waste” given the alarming humanitarian situation, and repeated his call to all parties to come to the negotiating table.
“The time has clearly come for the parties to stop shooting, and start talking. I am determined to do everything I can to assist the victims and move towards a political solution. That is the only way this crisis will be resolved.”
He added that while a political situation emerges, UN agencies would continue to provide assistance to millions of people inside and outside Syria who are in urgent need.
“Our challenge remains: achieving a complete cessation of hostilities, delivering humanitarian assistance and getting the Government and the opposition to the negotiating table in Geneva as soon as possible,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Joint Special Representative of the UN and League of Arab States for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said planning for the so-called “Geneva II” conference is still underway, with the conference tentatively taking place in September.
In June, discussions about the international meeting were held in Geneva with participation from senior United States, Russian and UN officials, led by Mr. Brahimi.
The goal of the conference would to be to achieve a political solution to the conflict in Syria through a comprehensive agreement between the Government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012. Issued after a meeting of the Action Group for Syria, the document lays out key steps in a process to end the violence.
In an interview with UNTV, Mr. Brahimi underscored the need to convene the conference, warning that Syria has become “without any doubt, the biggest threat to peace and security in the world today.”
“What has happened, this story, this allegation, that chemical weapons have been used a few kilometres from the heart of Damascus as a matter of fact emphasizes the importance of this crisis and the danger it represents, not only for the Syrian people, not only for the region, but for the world,” he said.