UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the Security Council yesterday that a civil war in Syria was “imminent,” while international mediator Kofi Annan said it was time to step up the pressure on Damascus to halt the violence.
“The Syrian people are bleeding,” Ban told reporters after addressing the Security Council. “They are angry. They want peace and dignity. Above all, they all want action.”
Both Ban and Annan strongly condemned a reported massacre of at least 78 people in the village of Qubeir and acknowledged that Annan’s peace plan was not working. “Today’s news reports of another massacre in Qubeir … are shocking and sickening,” Ban told a special session of the 193-nation General Assembly. “We condemn this unspeakable barbarity and renew our determination to bring those responsible to account,” he said.
Ban said UN monitors hoping to investigate the reports were denied access to the site where opposition activists say the massacre occurred on Wednesday. “They are working now to get to the scene,” he said. “And I just learned a few minutes ago that while trying to do so the UN monitors were shot at with small arms.”
Speaking at the Security Council, Ban said hopes for success of Annan’s peace bid were fading, a UN diplomats told Reuters. This was the first time the UN leader floated the idea of ending the observer mission, which many countries had hoped could help end 15 months of violence.
Annan warned the council that the Syrian crisis would soon spiral out of control and called for “substantial pressure” on Damascus and penalties for undermining the peace effort, UN diplomats said.
Britain’s UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, told reporters after a three-hour closed-door meeting of the Security Council with Ban and Annan that it was time for sanctions. “I suggested that the time had come when the Security Council should strengthen its support for the plan, including through a … resolution with clear timelines and triggers for sanctions in the event of non-compliance,” Lyall Grant said.
Russia, a staunch ally of and arms supplier to Assad, and China have resisted calls for sanctions against Damascus. However, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin did not explicitly rule out the idea of sanctions, though he accused his Western counterparts of focusing solely on the government’s violations and ignoring the opposition’s breaches of Annan’s peace plan.