President Obama tells UN General Assembly force should be an option in Syria
Tuesday President Barack Obama challenged the U.N. Security Council to hold Syria accountable if it fails to live up to pledges to dismantle its chemical weapons stockpiles.
Obama spoke Tuesday morning to the U.N. General Assembly.
"With respect to Syria, we believe that as a starting point the international community must enforce the ban on chemical weapons. When I stated my willingness to order a limited strike against the Assad regime, in response to the brazen use of chemical weapons, I did not do so lightly. I did so because I believe it is in the national security interests of the United States, and in the interests of the world, to meaningfully enforce a prohibition who's origins are older than the United Nations itself. The ban against the use of chemical weapons, even in war, has been agreed to by 98 percent of humanity. It is strengthened by the searing memories of soldiers suffocating in the trenches, Jews slaughtered in gas chambers, Iranians poisoned in the many tens of thousands."
"The evidence is overwhelming that the Assad regime used such weapons on August 21st. UN inspectors gave a clear accounting that advanced rockets fired large quantities of sarin gas at civilians. These rockets were fired from a regime controlled neighborhood and landed in opposition neighborhoods. It's an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack. I know that in the immediate aftermath of the attack there were those who questioned the legitimacy of even a limited strike in the absence of a clear mandate from the Security Council. But without a credible military threat the Security Council had demonstrated no inclination to act at all. However, as I've discussed with president Putin for over a year, most recently in St. Petersburg, my preference has always been a diplomatic resolution to this issue. And in the past several weeks the United States, Russia, and our allies have reached an agreement to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control and then to destroy them. The Syrian government took a first step by giving an accounting of it's stockpiles. Now there must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping it's commitments and there must be consequences if they fail to do so. If we cannot agree even on this then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws. On the other hand if we succeed it will send a powerful message that the use of chemical weapons has no place in the 21st century and that this body means what it says."
"Agreement on chemical weapons should energize a larger diplomatic effort to reach a political settlement within Syria. I do not believe that military action by those within Syria or by external powers can achieve a lasting peace. Nor do I believe that America or any nation should determine who will Syria. That is for the Syrian people to decide. Nevertheless a leader who's slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country. The notion that Syria can somehow return to a pre-war status quo is a fantasy. It's time for Russia and Iraq to realize that insisting on Assad's rule will lead directly to the outcome that they fear. An increasingly violent space for extremists to operate. 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 and concerns of Alawites and other minorities."
"We are committed to working this political trek and as we pursue a settlement let's remember this is not a zero sum endeavor. We're no longer in a cold war, there's no great game to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well being of it's people, the stability of it's neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons and ensuring that it does not become a safe haven for terrorists. I welcome the influence of all nations that can help bring about a peaceful resolution of Syria's civil war. As we move the Geneva process forward I urge all nations here to step up to meet humanitarian needs in Syria and surrounding countries. America has committed over a billion dollars to this effort. Today I can announce that we will be providing an additional $340 million."
Meanwhile Tuesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged world leaders 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."
But President Obama said the U.S. would continue to consider military options in the region.
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