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."
He called on the U.N. Security Council to adopt an "enforceable" resolution on a U.S.-Russian agreement to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control for future destruction and bring to justice the perpetrators of the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus to justice "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.
The secretary-general stressed that the international community "can hardly be satisfied with destroying chemical weapons while the wider war is still destroying Syria."
"The vast majority of the killing and atrocities have been carried out with conventional weapons," Ban said. "I appeal to all states to stop fueling the bloodshed and to end the arms flows to all parties."
The fighting in Syria has left more than 100,000 dead.
Ban called on the Syrian government and opposition to "lift all obstacles" to access for humanitarian workers and release "the thousands of men, women and children whose detention has no basis in international law."
Beyond Syria, the secretary-general said, "we can see tremendous stress and upheaval across the region."
Without naming any countries, he noted that "historic transitions have stumbled or slowed. Springs of inspiration are giving way to winters of disillusionment."
He added, "The challenges are immense: building democracy and pluralistic dialogue; dousing the flames of sectarianism; filling the security vacuum after the iron grip of dictators is gone."
The secretary-general urged world leaders to do their utmost to help reforms succeed.
Elsewhere in the world, he welcomed the revival of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and Africa's new "dynamism, democracy and sustained, impressive economic growth."
The secretary-general called this "an era of wondrous opportunity" and called the year 2015 "a historic opportunity."
That is the year that world leaders have pledged to achieve anti-poverty U.N. Millennium Development Goals, the year a new development agenda will be adopted and the year that leaders have pledged to complete "a global legal agreement on climate change."
Ban announced that the U.N. will hold a climate summit next September in New York and challenged leaders to bring "bold pledges" to close the emissions gap.