Transcript: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s press briefing on Syria on Sept. 3, 2013

Partial transcript of remarks by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the U.N. investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The press conference was held on Sept. 3, 2013:

Ladies and gentlemen, I leave shortly for G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg but I wanted to take just a few minutes with you before my departure to brief on the crisis in Syria, particularly on chemical weapons investigation.

Since the horrendous attacks in Ghouta area of Damascus two weeks ago, the United Nations mission led by Åke Sellström has been working urgently to establish the facts regarding the nature and the extent of any use of chemical weapons.

As the first proofs of allegations of the use of weapons of mass destruction of 21st century, the mission’s success is in everyone’s interest.

Last Friday, I briefed the members of the permanent members of the Security Council on the status of the investigation. And this morning, I briefed the council’s 10 non-permanent members.

This afternoon, my high representative for disarmament affairs, Ms. Angela Kane, will brief other member states.

I’ve called for the mission to give every opportunity to complete its task. The United Nations’ investigation is uniquely placed to independently establish the facts in an objective and impartial manner. Its work will be conducted strictly according to internationally recognized standards.

The mission has worked around the clock following its return from Syria to prepare the materials it gathered for analysis.

I’m pleased to announce that all bio-medical and environmental samples will have arrived at the designated laboratories by tomorrow.

We are doing our utmost to expedite the process. At the same time, I need to stress the importance of not jeopardizing the scientific timelines required for accurate analysis.

As soon as the mission has arrived at findings on the Ghouta incident, I will promptly report the results to member states and to the Security Council.

And as soon as it can, the mission will return to Syria to complete its investigation and to prepare its final report.

I have stressed repeatedly if confirmed any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances will be a serious violation of international law and outrageous war crime.

Almost a century ago, following the horrors of the first world war, the international community acted to ban the use of these weapons of mass destruction. Our common humanity compels us to ensure that chemical weapons do not become a tool of war or terror in the 21st century.

Any perpetrators must be brought to justice. There should be no impunity.

Bearing in mind the primary responsibility of the Security Council, I call for its members to unite and 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.

This is a larger issue than the conflict in Syria. This is about our collective responsibility to humankind.

Whatever the source, this latest escalation should be a wake-up call for the international community. We must put an end to the atrocities the Syrian people continue to suffer. We should avoid further militarization of the conflict and revitalize the search for a political settlement.

I take note of the argument for action to prevent future uses of chemical weapons. At the same time, we must consider the impact of any punitive measure on 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.

The turmoil in Syria and across the region serves nobody. I [call for] renewal of efforts by regional and international actors to convene the Geneva Conference as soon as possible.

The G-20 summit meeting in St. Petersburg is meant to focus on economic issues, including the millennium development goals and sustainable development. But I will use opportunity of this gathering to engage 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.

Press briefing Q&A:

…My question is since you are talking about put an end to impunity and you’re also talking about the primacy of the charter, which would prohibit any military strike without U.N. Security Council authorization. And with a stalemate in the Security Council, what is it that you are proposing? What’s in the toolbox of the U.N. to avoid that kind of confrontation and impunity? And do you think the inspectors’ report will be out before the U.S. Congress convenes?

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon:
As I have repeatedly said that the Security Council has primary responsibility for international peace and security.

For any course of actions in the future – depending upon the outcome of the analysis – scientific analysis – will have to be considered by the Security Council for any action. And that’s my appeal – that everything should be handled within the framework of the United Nations Charter.

The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defense in accordance with the Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and or when the Security Council approves such action. That is from the principles of the United Nations.

And as I said, again, for your second question, we will – our mandate to investigate the allegations of chemical use remained unchanged. And when we are ready, we will send the – dispatch our mission again to Syria for a final report.

The timing will have to be considered later on, depending upon the situations.

Do you mean, Secretary General, that the position taken by President Obama that his opinion that there should be a strike is illegal? And why did you agree or your team agree to limit the mandate of their investigation to only the nature and the extent, rather than if the team has information of who was responsible? Was this one Syria – the Syrian government insisted or stipulated for agreeing to the protocol?

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon:
I have taken note of President Obama’s statement and I appreciate his efforts to have his future course of action based on broad opinions of American people, particularly Congress. And I hope this process will have good results.

As for other issues, I have clearly stated in my positions on other issues pertaining this chemical weapons use.

But who put the limits on the mandate? Is it the Syrian government…? [Overlapping audio] Who put such limitation on the mandate? Was it the Secretariat when negotiated? Was it the Syrian government? Or was it the Security Council?

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon:
It’s the United Nations decision and my decision that mandate of this team is to determine the use of chemical weapons – whether there was or not the use of chemical weapons – and it’s not to determine who has used against whom. We do not have that kind of mandate at this time.

…One may think that it is a limit but this is based on recognized standard of International community and we’ve been working very closely with the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] and the WHO [World Health Organization]…


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