UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged world leaders on Tuesday to stop fueling the bloodshed in Syria with weapons and get both sides to the negotiating table to end the "biggest challenge to peace and security in the world."
In his state of the world address to open the annual gathering of presidents, prime ministers and monarchs at the U.N. General Assembly, the U.N. chief said the international response to last month's "heinous use of chemical weapons" in Syria "has created diplomatic momentum - the first signs of unity in far too long."
Ban called on the Security Council to adopt an "enforceable" resolution on a U.S.-Russian agreement to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control for destruction and bring to justice the perpetrators of the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus "either through referral to the International Criminal Court or by other means consistent with international law."
U.N. diplomats say differences between the U.S. and Russia on how a resolution should be enforced have held up action in the Security Council. Russia is opposed to any mention of Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which includes military and non-military actions to promote peace and security. Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions that would have pressured Syrian President Bashar Assad to end the 2 1/2-year war that has killed more than 100,000 people.
U.S. President Barack Obama noted the Iranian and Russian support for the Syrian regime.
"It's time for Russia and Iran to realize that insisting on Assad's rule will lead directly to the outcome they fear: an increasingly violent space for extremists to operate," Obama said. "In turn, those of us who continue to support the moderate opposition must persuade them that the Syrian people cannot afford a collapse of state institutions, and that a political settlement cannot be reached without addressing the legitimate fears of Alawites and other minorities."