UN chief Ban Ki-moon has told world leaders at the G-20 summit that there is “no military solution” to Syria. Meanwhile, a US ambassador to the UN accused Russia of holding the Security Council "hostage" over the crisis.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed world leaders on Thursday during a closed-door dinner at the G-20 summit outside St. Petersburg saying the situation in Syria “has no military solution,” stressing the need for a political solution instead.
Ban urged the permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States - that they have a “collective responsibility to mankind” to act. However, he reiterated that any decision “should be taken within the framework of the UN Charter, as a matter of principle,” the UN quoted him as saying.
Russia has been at the forefront of opposition to US-led military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. US President Barack Obama's plan is to carry out a “tailored, limited strike” against Assad's government, which Washington says carried out an alleged chemical weapons attack on August 21 outside Damascus killing more than 1,400 people.
With Russia expected to use its veto power to block any military action against Syria, US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power on Thursday accused Russia of holding the UN Security Council "hostage" over the crisis.
"Russia continues to hold the Council hostage and shirks its international responsibilities," she said.
Last week, Obama said he would seek backing from Congress for a military strike in Syria. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday gave its backing for the use of force with the full chamber due to vote on Monday when it resumes after the summer recess.
If approved, the amended resolution would authorize military intervention with a 90-day deadline and forbids US boots on the ground for the purpose of combat.
Western powers differ in response
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday that UK scientists have found evidence that poison gas was used in the alleged attacks.
In an interview with BBC television, Cameron said that the evidence "further shows the use of chemical weapons in that Damascus suburb."
Despite the new evidence, Britain will not join a US-led military strike as the UK parliament voted down a bid by Cameron for military intervention. However, Washington has found a firm partner in France.
China has already expressed its "grave concerns" over unilateral military strikes.
"War cannot solve the problem in Syria," Chinese delegation spokesman Qin Gang told reporters at the G20.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly ruled out her country's participation in any US-led military strike against Assad's regime.
Economic worries at the summit
Earlier in the day, host President Vladimir Putin told the opening plenary session of the summit that economic matters should take precedence instead of the controversy surrounding Syria.
The summit, which ends Friday, will address a range of issues affecting both developed and developing nations: among other things, steps for preventing tax evasion and "shadow banking." Developing nations have, additionally, voiced concerns over the US Federal Reserve's intentions of ending a stimulus program, which could damage their own economies if not conducted in an orderly manner.
The countries represented at the summit account for two-thirds of the world's population and 90 percent of global gross domestic product.
hc/lw (AFP, AP, dpa)