Military action against Syria not approved by the UN Security Council would be in violation of international law, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday, comments that came as US President Barack Obama pressed his case to Congressional leaders for a retaliatory strike on Syria over its alleged used of chemical weapons.
“As I have repeatedly said, the Security Council has primary responsibility for international peace and security,” Ban told a news conference in New York prior to departing for the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, The Associated Press reported.
“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,” he added.
The United States says it is confident that an alleged Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs was carried out by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Obama is lobbying US lawmakers to support punitive military action against Syrian targets in response.
France also accuses Assad’s government of being behind the attack, but Ban warned Tuesday against a hasty response from outside countries that could lead to further tragedies.
“I take note of the argument for action to prevent a future use of chemical weapons,” Ban said. “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.”
Russia, which has veto power on the Security Council, has fiercely criticized Washington’s call for outside military intervention in the civil war, saying it is unclear which side might have deployed chemical weapons and warning that Assad’s ouster could usher Islamic extremists into power.
Ban called on the UN Security council to “move beyond the current stalemate and show leadership,” and said it should agree on “an appropriate response” if allegations about the chemical weapons attack are proven to be true, Bloomberg reported.
“This is a larger issue than the conflict in Syria,” Ban said, Bloomberg reported. “This is about our collective responsibility to humankind. Whatever the source, this latest escalation should be a wake-up call for the international community.”
The UN is working intensely to analyze biological samples they recovered from the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, Ban was quoted by US media as saying.
The samples are set to arrive in European labs on Wednesday for testing, The Associated Press reported.