In his off-the-cuff remarks to reporters on Tuesday September 3, 2013 Secretary General Ban Ki-moon repeated his statement made in Seoul, Republic of Korea, 26 August 2013, as the United Nations team led by Dr. Sellstrom was on the ground and working around the clock in order to respond to the most recent reports of alleged use of chemical weapons near Damascus on 21 August:
If proven, any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is a serious violation of international law and an outrageous crime. We cannot allow impunity in what appears to be a grave crime against humanity.
The Secretary General reminded listeners that it is our 'common humanity' that invoked world leaders almost a century ago to ban forever all use of such weapons, noting that "this is a larger issue than the conflict in Syria; this is about our collective responsibility to humankind."
Bearing in mind the primary responsibility of the Security Council, I call for its members to unite and to develop an appropriate response, should the allegations of use prove to be true. The Security Council has a duty to move beyond the current stalemate and show leadership.
Although the Secretary General recognized the argument that Secretary of State John Kerry and others have made -- that some punitive measure is called for in order to facilitate a political resolution and prevent further bloodshed -- he cautioned against "further militarization of the conflict,'" calling instead for a revitalization of the search for resolution through negotiated political settlement.
I appeal for renewed efforts by regional and international actors to convene the Geneva conference as soon as possible.
The G20 summit meeting in St. Petersburg is meant to focus on economic issues, including the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development. But I will use the opportunity of this gathering to engage with world leaders on this tragedy, including humanitarian assistance for the more than 2 million refugees and 4.2 million Syrians who have been displaced internally.
It is imperative to end this war.
The Secretary General, on Wednesday September 4, was invited to address students at St. Petersburg University, where he acknowledged that the Group of 20 Global Nations (the G20) is especially concerned with the economic issues that challenge societies around the world; but at a time of this great crisis in Syria, the United Nations has a unique role:
This is a vital month for global cooperation. St. Petersburg is hosting this important meeting. And a few weeks from now, all of the leaders of the world will come together at the United Nations headquarters in New York for the opening of the General Assembly.
We face great trials and tests. Around the world, human rights are at risk. Democracies are threatened. Legitimate voices and movements of dissent are being stifled. People everywhere are worried about the future and wonder whether institutions and decision makers will hear their pleas and act on them.
And in Syria, a catastrophic civil war has killed more than 100,000 people, ignited sectarian tensions, caused millions of people to flee their homes and generated instability across the region. The latest fighting has also raised the spectre of chemical warfare – which, if confirmed by the UN investigation mission, would be an atrocious violation of international law. I continue to press for a political solution. Arms flows and militarization only sustain the bloodshed. It is time for the parties to stop fighting and start talking. The Syrian people need peace.
The G20 Summit of Global Leaders will convene under President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, September 5.