29 September 2013, 05:10

Ban Ki-moon holds first meeting with Syrian opposition chief

сирия оон химическое оружие пан ги мун

UN leader Ban Ki-moon held his first meeting Saturday with the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition in a bid to press for a Syria peace conference. The meeting is likely to infuriate President Bashar al-Assad's government, which is still recognized by the United Nations and routinely calls the coalition and other opposition groups "terrorists."

Coalition president Ahmad Jarba told Ban the opposition group was ready to send a delegation to a conference, according to UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Ban announced on Friday that he wants to organize in mid-November a follow-up to a Geneva peace conference held in June 2012, when the major powers agreed a declaration that there should be a transitional government in Syria.

"The secretary-general welcomed Mr Jarba's commitment to send a delegation to the Geneva Conference and urged the National Coalition to reach out to other opposition groups and agree on a representative and united delegation," Nesirky said.

Ban "stressed the importance of embarking on a serious dialogue as soon as possible as well as the need to ensure accountability for war crimes," the spokesman said.

The UN leader said on September 13 that Assad has committed "many crimes against humanity." He has stepped up criticism of Assad since an August 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus.

A UN investigation found that banned sarin gas had been used but did not attribute blame.

The United States says 1,400 people died in the attack and blames Assad's government for the killings. The government and Russia have accused opposition rebels of staging the assault.

The UN Security Council voted on Friday to destroy Syria's chemical weapons in its first resolution on the war since protests against Assad started in March 2011. The UN says more than 100,000 people have died in the war.

Diplomacy prevails: UNSC passes milestone Syria resolution

Syria must transfer all chemical weapons in its possession to international control for subsequent elimination. If it fails to do so, it may face action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. So says a resolution of the UN Security Council - its first on Syria since the outbreak of the conflict there two and a half years ago – which was unanimously passed on Friday night after two weeks of difficult diplomacy which involved several meetings between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry.

This is what the Russian Minister had to point out after Friday’s historic vote:

"The resolution does not directly invoke Chapter VII and rules out any automatic punitive action. It upholds the Russian-American agreement in Geneva that any violation of it, including the use of chemical weapons by whatever side, must be carefully investigated by the UN Security Council, which can approve punitive action under Chapter VII. Any violation must be irrefutably verified, and any UN-approved punishment for it must be proportional to its magnitude."

The resolution applies to the Syrian rebels as well as the Syrian government. It also applies to the foreign backers of the Syrian rebels.

Friday’s resolution upholds the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and also calls on all countries to deny support to Syrian groups that are after acquiring a mass destruction arsenal.

The West continues to blame the regime for the chemical attacks that took place on August 21. Accordingly, US Secretary of State John Kerry put the Syrian government in the focus of Friday’s resolution.

Together with the resolution, the Security Council approved a set of measures for the chemical disarmament of Syria proposed by the executive of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. On the coming Tuesday, the OPCW is to dispatch inspectors to Syria. Next summer should see the completion of operations to destroy Syria’s chemical warfare stockpiles.

According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, it is now possible to convene another international conference on Syria in Geneva in the middle of November. The regime and a spectrum of opposition groups are expected to attend. Many hope this can kickstart reconciliation and settlement talks.

Mother Agnes Mariam de la Croix, now Mother Superior of St James Convent in Qara, has spent 20 years in Syria. In an interview with The Voice of Russia Friday, she spoke about untold human suffering in the country after two and a half years of civil war and international sanctions.

At the UN Friday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague proposed a separate resolution of the Security Council on humanitarian assistance to Syria.

Voice of Russia, AFP

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