UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded international action to stop the war in Syria, telling a somber gathering of world leaders Tuesday that the 18-month conflict had become a regional calamity with global ramifications.
In sharp contrast to the U.N. chief, President Obama pledged U.S. support for Syrians trying to oust President Bashar Assad – a dictator who massacres his own people.
Opening the U.N. General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting, Ban said in his state of the world speech that he was sounding the alarm about widespread insecurity, inequality and intolerance in many countries.
Putting the spotlight on Syria, the U.N. chief said the international community should not look the other way as violence spirals out of control.
We must stop the violence and flows of arms to both sides, and set in motion a Syrian-led transition as soon as possible, he said.
While Obama didn’t call for an end to the violence, he made no mention of arming the opposition and stressed the importance of ensuring that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence.
Ban, declaring that the situation in Syria is getting worse every day, called the conflict a serious and growing threat to international peace and security that requires attention from the deeply divided U.N. Security Council.
That appears highly unlikely, however, at least in the near future.
Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Syrian President Bashar Assad to end the violence and enter negotiations on a political transition, leaving the U.N.’s most powerful body paralyzed in what some diplomats consider the worst crisis since the U.S.-Soviet standoff during the Cold War.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, whose country by tradition is the first to speak, supported the secretary-general, saying: There is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. Diplomacy and dialogue are not just our best option; they are the only option.
With the Security Council unable to act, the Emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, said Arab countries should intervene out of their national, humanitarian, political and military duties and do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed ... in order to guarantee a peaceful transition of power in Syria.
He cited a similar precedent when Arab forces intervened in Lebanon in the mid-1970s to stop the civil war in a step that proved to be effective and useful.
French President Francois Hollande said nearly 30,000 people have been killed and asked: How many more deaths will we wait for before we act?