Thursday, August 29, 2013

U.N. Secretary General: 'Give Peace a Chance' in Syria

    Even as United Nations personnel are in Syria trying to investigate chemical weapons claims that have further exacerbated that country's bloody civil war, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was incongruously tasked with the celebration of the centennial of the Peace Palace in The Hague.  After praising the 100 year old "magnificent building" that houses the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague Academy of International Law and the Peace Palace Library, the Secretary-General urged all sides in Syria to "give peace a chance," noting the presence of the weapons inspectors currently in the country.  He also questioned the wisdom of supplying arms to either side in the conflict, asking "what have those arms achieved but more bloodshed?"
    Here are his full remarks on Syria:
Above all, I think about Syria, where a catastrophic civil war has killed more than 100,000 people by now, ignited sectarian tensions and generated instability across the region.
Now we have reached the most serious moment in this conflict.
The latest escalation has caused horrendous casualties.  And through images unlike any we have seen in the 21st century, it has also raised the spectre of chemical warfare.
The use of chemical weapons by anyone, for any reasons, under any circumstances, would be an atrocious violation of international law.
It is essential to establish the facts.  A United Nations investigation team is now on the ground to do just that.
Just days after the attacks, they have collected valuable samples and interviewed victims and witnesses. The team needs time to do its job.
Here in the Peace Palace, let us say: Give peace a chance.  Give diplomacy a chance.  Stop fighting and start talking.
And here in this hall dedicated to the rule of law, I say: let us adhere to the United Nations Charter.
To those providing weapons to either side, we must ask: what have those arms achieved but more bloodshed?
The military logic has given us a country on the verge of total destruction, a region in chaos and a global threat.  Why add more fuel to the fire?
We must pursue all avenues to get the parties to the negotiating table.  The joint envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League continues his efforts.
Most of all, the Security Council of the United Nations must uphold its responsibilities under the Charter - moral and political responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations.
Syria is the biggest challenge of war and peace in the world today.  The body entrusted with maintaining international peace and security cannot be missing in action.  The Council must at last find the unity to act.  It must use its authority for peace.
    So far, Russia and China have opposed any action by the UN against Syria.

Note: A version of this article first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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