UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 370 (R).
(photo credit: Ki Price / Reuters)
Between the Syrian crisis and calls to reform the Security Council, incoming President of the UN General Assembly John W. Ashe, ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda, will have his hands full as the 68th session of the General Assembly begins.
When asked on Tuesday in his first official press conference what role the General Assembly could play in the Syrian conflict, Ashe said simply the outcome of the Russian-American negotiations over Syria's chemical weapons will be taken up by the Security Council, and that the secretary-general would be briefing UN member states on the report released Monday by the UN investigative team.
But until all member states have been briefed, he said, it would be "premature" to "give a pronouncement on the future of the crisis in Syria."
Ashe said he did anticipate the conflict would be discussed by the General Assembly, and further that many proposals had been put on the table for ways to reform the structure of the Security Council in light of the council's inability to act on Syria.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon noted that 131 heads of state and and government will be at the UN for this session, a historic record, as well as 60 foreign ministers.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Ban said he also endorsed reforming the Security Council, and that "almost all member states are in agreement that the Security Council should be reformed, but how to reform, how to change, the member states have not been able to agree."
"Sadly, the international community has not been able to help the Syrian people enjoy security and peace for the last two-and-a-half years," Ban said.
"The Security Council should be united at this time. The findings [in the UN chemical weapons report] by Dr. Selltröm and his team were indisputable and overwhelming."
Ban did walk back remarks that he made over the weekend in which he accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of crimes against humanity, maintaining that he was not assigning blame for the chemical weapons attacks.
"As I've said, it is for others to decide whether to pursue this matter further to determine responsibility and accountability."
He also said that while he welcomed Syria's "belated accession" to the Chemical Weapons Convention, he cautioned that "there are many obligations" in between acceding and becoming a full member, and that he had seen past cases where "commitment has been given but not implemented."
The 68th session of the UN General Assembly began on Tuesday at 3 p.m., New York time.