France urges action on Syria, says 120,000 dead

Wed, 25th Sep 2013 06:21

NEW YORK (Alliance News) - France delivered a forceful call Tuesday for the UN Security Council to consider imposing sanctions if Syria fails to abide by a plan to relinquish its chemical weapons.

French President Francois Hollande told the UN General Assembly that 120,000 people have been killed in more than two years of civil war, 2 million people had fled Syria, and the country is "destroyed."

Hollande said a draft resolution should invoke Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, allowing the Security Council to impose sanctions on Syria and hold accountable the parties in the conflict that used chemical weapons.

The resolution should demand the convening of a second Geneva conference to implement plans of the first conference, which called for a transitional government in Damascus.

"The urgency is also on the humanitarian side, for the millions of displaced in Syria as well as in neighbouring countries," Hollande said.

King Abdullah II of Jordan said that his country of 5 million people would soon be hosting 1 million Syrian refugees.

"These are not just numbers, they are people, who need food, water, shelter, sanitation, electricity, health care, and more," he said. "But I say here and now that my people cannot be asked to shoulder the burden of what is a regional and global challenge."

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, ruler of Qatar, said the Security Council is responsible for the failure to end the Syrian conflict.

"From this perspective, the decision-making process of the council in need of change since it lacks fairness and objectivity," he said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened the annual session, urging an "enforceable" Security Council resolution on chemical weapons in Syria. He said Syria should "fully and quickly" meet its obligations after joining the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons next month.

"The international community must bring to justice the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, confirmed unequivocably by the UN investigation mission," Ban said.

UN investigators are to return Wednesday to Syria.

Speaking to the 193-nation assembly, US President Barack Obama urged tough international action to dispose of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile and called for diplomatic efforts on Iran's nuclear programme and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"There must be a strong Security Council resolution to ensure the Assad regime is keeping its commitments, and there must be consequences if they fail to do so," Obama said.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, whose country hosts about 450,000 Syrian refugees, said the US-Russia agreement to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons "has to be translated into a tangible UN Security Council resolution."

"Once Syria comes clean about this arsenal, once and for all, it will be a relief for the Syrian people and the region," Gul said.

He insisted that the Syrian conflict "neither began with the use of chemical weapons, nor will it end with an agreement to eliminate them."

Other speakers called for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Obama said the international community should get behind the "pursuit of peace" between Israel and the Palestinians, saying leaders on both sides were willing to "take significant political risks."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will address the General Assembly on Thursday, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on October 1.

"Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel's security as a Jewish and democratic state depend on the realization of a Palestinian state," Obama said.

One of the most closely watched speeches will come at 5 pm Tuesday (2100 GMT) when newly elected Iranian President Hasan Rowhani is to take the podium. He has made headlines in recently weeks by dramatically softening the tone of Tehran's approach to the United States and other Western powers.

In the highest-level meeting between Washington and Tehran since the 1979 Iranian revolution, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will both attend a ministerial-level meeting Thursday of the six countries - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) - involved in negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme.

Copyright dpa

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