Top-level events during the opening of this year’s General Assembly highlighted the centrality of the United Nations, with a breakthrough Security Council resolution on Syria, and Iran and the United States using the world forum for overtures aimed at reversing decades of tension, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, summing up the week-long part of the session.
“The centrality of the United Nations today reflects the global logic of our times: with our fates ever more entwined, our future must be one of ever deeper and wider cooperation,” he wrote in the article published in newspapers and media outlets around the world.
He called the resolution on Syria, in which the 15-member body called for the elimination of the country’s chemical weapons while endorsing a diplomatic plan for Syrian-led negotiations toward peace “the first hopeful news on the crisis after years of deadlock and inertia.”
The UN is now working with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on setting up a joint 100-member-strong mission to oversee the elimination by 30 June, 2014. The Council resolution followed Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention in the wake of a sarin gas attack that killed hundreds in a Damascus suburb in August.
Mr. Ban noted that the Security Council also adopted a strong statement on Syria’s humanitarian plight, “and we continue to press for access, an end to arms flows and violations of human rights and, above all, the convening of an international conference to deal with ending this horrendous conflict.
“We cannot be satisfied with destroying chemical weapons while the wider war is destroying Syria,” he added on the conflict, which has already killed over 100,000 people and driven some 6.5 million others from their homes since protesters first sought the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad in March, 2011.
“Military victory is an illusion; the only answer is a negotiated transition to the new Syria that the country’s people need and deserve. We are determined to bring the parties to the table in mid-November.”
He also noted that the General Debate, opening the annual session, during which scores of presidents, monarchs and prime ministers address the Assembly, provided a UN setting for Iran and the United States to make overtures aimed at reversing decades of tension, while high-level meetings brought progress on the democratic transitions in Myanmar and Yemen, the complex crisis in the Sahel, and implementation of the peace framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the wider Great Lakes region.
“Based on the diplomacy that just took place at the United Nations, and fully aware of the steep challenges ahead, I am encouraged about our prospects,” Mr. Ban wrote. “The United Nations is an agile first responder at times of disaster, and often a last resort for problems found too vexing for others.
“At times, the Organization is in the lead, at others it is among a constellation of actors. At times we reach our goals; sometimes we fall short. But the Organization works every single day, around the clock, around the globe, to advance the goals of humankind in the most trying circumstances.”