UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed Tuesday to major powers to stop sending weapons to all sides in Syria , as he opened the annual General Assembly summit .
“I appeal to all states to stop fuelling the bloodshed and to end the arms flows to all parties,” Ban told world leaders.
The UN chief also called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition - and “all those I this hall with influence over them” - to work immediately to arrange a second Geneva conference aimed at reaching a political solution. “Military victory is an illusion. The only answer is a political settlement,” he said.
Ban’s appeal comes as the United States and Russia haggle over the language in a Security Council resolution meant to seal an agreement for Assad to give up chemical weapons.
US Secretary of State John Kerry was to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov later in the day. Russia is the main supporter of Assad, while the rebels receive support from Western nations and Sunni Arab monarchies.
A top Russian diplomat said that the resolution would include the article of the UN Charter that allows the use of force or sanctions.
Meanwhile, Russia hopes the UN Security Council will agree a resolution this week to support a deal for Syria to abandon its chemical arms, but talks with the United States have been rocky, a senior Russian diplomat said on Tuesday.
Speaking before negotiations expected on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov reiterated Russia’s opposition to any threat of military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. He said Moscow would not accept a resolution stipulating automatic punitive measures if Assad fails to comply with the US-Russian deal under which he has agreed to give up his chemical arsenal.
“There is no talk of adopting a UN Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN charter. There can be no talk of any automatic application of sanctions, let alone the use of force,” Ryabkov told a meeting in parliament.
But he said Chapter 7, which can authorize the use of force or other measures, could be cited in the resolution as a possible means to counter any violations later on.
“Chapter 7 can be mentioned only as an element of a possible set of measures against violators,” he said, referring to potential future cases of chemical arms use or stalling the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
He reiterated Moscow’s stance that any Chapter 7 resolution could only come after any such cases are well proven and have been discussed within the Security Council.
Ryabkov also highlighted Russian concerns that Western states want to use the chemical arms agreement as a pretext for eventual military action.
US officials “always mention that plans to punish Damascus remain in force. We draw certain conclusions from that and assume the threat of aggression in violation of international law is so far only delayed - not dismissed fully.”
Asked whether the permanent Security Council members - Russia, China, the United States, Britain and France - could reach agreement on the resolution this week, he said: “We hope so, but there is no guarantee.”
“Unfortunately it’s necessary to note that in contacts with the Americans, things are not going so smoothly ... they are not quite going in the direction they should,” Ryabkov said.
Russia has been the Syrian government’s strongest backer during the conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people since 2011, delivering arms and, with China, blocking three Western-backed resolutions intended to put pressure on Assad.
The US-Russia deal for Syria to abandon chemical weapons was a rare exception to their disagreements over the conflict.
It prompted US President Barack Obama to hold back his request for Congressional approval to strike Syria to punish Assad for an August 21 sarin gas attack Washington says killed more than 1,400 people. Damascus denies it was the perpetrator.
The United States and its Security Council allies Britain and France blame Assad’s forces for the attack. Russia says it believes rebels staged it to provoke military intervention, and has described a report by UN chemical inspectors as biased.
Russia has said there is evidence indicating rebels were behind other alleged chemical attacks in Syria . It has called for investigation of all such claims and the consideration of more sources of evidence about the August 21 attack.
UN officials have said the UN investigators will return to Syria in the next few days. Ryabkov said they were expected to travel to Damascus on Wednesday, and suggested that pressure from Moscow had played a role.
“We are pleased that our persistent calls for the return of UN experts to Syria for the investigation of other episodes have borne fruit,” he said.