Ban Ki-moon calls for arms embargo on Syria

The U.N. chief delivered the remarks in a keynote address on Syria's devastating civil war

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U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday urged the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Syria and called on neighboring countries to stop the flow of weapons across the border.

Ban delivered a rallying cry for concerted international action to end Syria’s devastating civil war, which has paralyzed the Security Council and killed more than 160,000 people.

“It is essential to stem the flow of arms pouring into the country,” he said in a lecture at the Asia Society in New York.

“It is irresponsible for foreign powers and groups to give continued military support to parties in Syria that are committing atrocities.

“I urge the Security Council to impose an arms embargo. If divisions in the Council continue to prevent such a step, I urge countries to do so individually.

“Syria’s neighbors should enforce a firm prohibition on the use of their land borders and airspace for arms flows and smuggling into Syria,” he said.

Four Western resolutions on Syria have been vetoed by Russia on the Security Council, protecting close ally Damascus and blocking efforts to end a war and enforce the delivery of aid.

Ban outlined a six-point agenda to chart a “principled and integrated way forward to international action,” as well as call for an immediate end to the violence and unfettered aid access.

International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi resigned at the end of May after two rounds of peace talks yielded no concrete results and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was re-elected in June.

Ban said the election did “not meet even minimal standards for credible voting” and that he would soon name a new envoy, admitting that he or she “will not be able to wave a magic wand.”

In May, China and Russia vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court for crimes committed by both sides in the three-year civil war.

Ban urged those “who say no to the ICC but who say they support accountability in Syria to come forward with credible alternatives” saying perpetrators must be called to account.

He also said the regional dimensions and extremist threat must be addressed, pointing out that the flow of arms and fighters across the porous border had fanned the crisis in Iraq.

“Military strikes against ISIS might have little lasting effect or even be counterproductive if there is no movement towards inclusive government in Iraq,” the UN chief said.

“It is imperative for the government and its backers to ensure that no reprisals are carried out against Sunni communities in revenge for the barbaric acts by ISIS.”

He said ISIS presented a threat to all communities in Iraq, calling on moderate Arab Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites to work together.

“Sectarian warfare is a disaster for all it generates a vicious circle,” he said.