The UN secretary general has said that only the Security Council can authorize any use of force against Syria over a chemical weapons attack that allegedly killed hundreds of people in the suburbs of Damascus last month.
“As I have repeatedly said, the Security Council has primary responsibility for international peace and security,” Ban Ki-moon told reports on Tuesday at the UN headquarters in New York. “The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defense in accordance with article 51 of the United Nations Charter and or when the Security Council approves such action,” Ban said in remarks that appeared to challenge the legality of US plans to launch a military offensive against Syria without a UN mandate. The UN secretary general also said that he is against the further militarization of the conflict and insisted on a political solution, adding a military strike against Syria could unleash more turmoil and bloodshed in the Arab country. “I take note of the argument for action to prevent a future use of chemical weapons. At the same time, we must consider the impact of any punitive measure on efforts to prevent further bloodshed and facilitate the political resolution of the conflict,” Ban stated. The call for military action against Syria intensified after foreign-backed opposition forces accused the government of President Bashar al-Assad of launching a chemical attack on militant strongholds in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21. Damascus has vehemently denied the accusations, saying the chemical attack was carried out by the militants themselves as a false-flag operation. The UN secretary general did not accuse any party of the alleged attack, saying, “If confirmed, any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances will be a serious violation of international law and an outrageous war crime.” “Whatever the source, this latest allegation should be as wakeup call for the international community,” Ban said. He added that an ongoing UN investigation into the incident “is uniquely placed to independently establish the facts in an objective and impartial manner.” On August 31, US President Barack Obama said he has decided that Washington must take military action against the Syrian government, which would mean a unilateral military strike without a UN mandate. Obama said that despite having made up his mind, he will take the case to US Congress. But he added that he is prepared to order military action against the Syrian government at any time. The US president once again held the Syrian government responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus. On August 29, a meeting of the Security Council's permanent members ended without reaching an agreement on Syria. Representatives from the US, Britain, France, Russia, and China met at the UN headquarters for the second time in two days, but the session broke up after less than an hour, with the ambassadors steadily walking out. The Western members of the council have been pushing for a resolution on the use of force while Russia and China are strongly opposed to any attack on Syria. Since March 2011, Russia and China have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions proposed by European states threatening military action and sanctions against Damascus. The two countries are also opposing the current push by the United States and France to launch a war on Syria, vowing to veto any resolution that paves the way for the military action.