UNITED NATIONS —
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging a political solution to the crisis in Syria, saying Tuesday that military force is legal only when it is in self-defense or is authorized by the U.N. Security Council.
The U.N. chief is headed to the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, where Syria is certain to top the agenda.
Before departing, he told reporters he appreciates that U.S. President Barack Obama is consulting his Congress before launching any military strikes on Syria, following a suspected chemical weapons attack on August 21 near Damascus that killed hundreds of people. Ban added that he hopes any action is handled in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
“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. That is the firm principle of the United Nations,” said Ban.
Ban said that if confirmed, any use of chemical weapons “by anyone, under any circumstances” would be an “outrageous war crime.”
While he said there should be no impunity, he also called for nations to consider the impact of any punitive measures and said further militarization of the Syria conflict should be avoided.
He said the turmoil in Syria and across the region “serves nobody” and he appealed for renewed efforts to convene a political conference in Geneva as soon as possible.
A U.N. team of scientific experts has just returned from Syria and Ban said the biomedical and environmental samples they have collected would be at laboratories by Wednesday for analysis.
The team, which spent two weeks in Syria, is mandated with determining whether chemical weapons were used in Syria, but not by whom. The focus of the investigation shifted from earlier allegations of chemical weapons use to the suspected gas attack at Ghouta near the capital August 21.