New York – Both in Syria where conditions are daily worsening, and in Mali where security has much improved, a political solution is the only answer for long-term stability, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in a news briefing that touched on crisis flashpoints around the world.
“The tragedy in Syria worsens by the day. The military dynamic is destroying the country and imperilling the region. Civilians are paying the price and must be protected,” he said of the conflict which has killed more than 70,000 people, mostly civilians, and displaced more than three million since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
“The prospects may seem dim, but I remain convinced that a political solution is possible. This is the only way to end the bloodshed and bring about a new and democratic Syria. The United Nations will continue to push in that direction,” he added, stressing that the world body is doing its best to deliver desperately needed aid and support the crushing burden of more than a million refugees in Syria’s neighbours.
Mr. Ban again called on the Government to accept his plans for a UN team of experts to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons in the country. On March 20 the Government itself requested a “specialized, impartial and independent mission” to investigate allegations of chemical use in Aleppo that same month.
The team has now been in Cyprus for over a week ready to deploy as soon as the Government agrees to the modalities under which it would also probe charges chemical weapons use in Homs last December following a request from Britain and France States. “I have been urging the Syrian Government to show flexibility in accepting the proposed modalities,” Mr. Ban said.
Turning to Mali, he noted that security has greatly improved following “the timely actions” of French and African military forces which helped push Islamists and other militants out of the cities they had seized in the of the West African country.
“However, much remains to be done to restore Mali’s constitutional order and territorial integrity,” he declared. “Military operations and stabilization are essential. But let me emphasize once again that political progress is the key to any lasting solution.”
Mr. Ban voiced alarm at clashes in the Central African Republic (CAR) where rebels seized Bangui, the capital and forced President François Bozizé to flee. He urged the de facto authorities there to restore law and order throughout the country.
In the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), he noted the recent strengthening of the UN peacekeeping mission with the establishment of an Intervention Brigade to address the problem of armed groups that have for years been sowing mayhem in the east of the vast country.
Turning to the Middle East conflict, Mr. Ban welcomed the recent visits by United States President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to Jerusalem and Ramallah in efforts to re-launch the stalled two-state peace process, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and with secure borders.
“We cannot allow the window for achieving a two-state solution to close any further,” he said, calling on all involved, including the diplomatic Quartet comprising the UN, European Union, Russia and US, to work “to breathe new life into the peace process, create an environment conducive for the resumption of negotiations and establish a credible political horizon for achieving a two-state solution.”
On the other side of the world, the Secretary-General noted that the international community has responded “in a firm but measured way to the nuclear test, threats and other provocative acts” by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), adding: “The recent developments have strengthened the international consensus that the DPRK will not be accepted as a nuclear-weapon-state.
“I continue to urge the DPRK leadership to reverse course and return to the negotiating table,” voicing the hope that the DPRK would take seriously the recent offer of dialogue by the Republic of Korea (ROK).
He also called on the international community not to lose sight of the serious humanitarian and human rights situation in the DPRK. “I sincerely hope that with the reduction of tension, the international community should also consider providing humanitarian assistance,” he said.