UN monitors arrive in Damascus 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Khaled al- Hariri )
NEW YORK – Prior to US President Barack Obama’s call on Saturday for a military strike against Syria, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said that Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon had not spoken with Obama, nor would he confirm whether the two men would meet after the UN chemical weapons team completed its analysis of the materials collected in Ghouta, near Damascus.
“What we have said, and what the secretary-general has said publicly, is that the team needs to do its job, and it needs time to be able to analyze the samples it has collected,” Nesirky said. “The secretary-general has also said repeatedly that there is no alternative to a political solution to the overall crisis in Syria. A military solution is not an option.”
Ban underscored the importance of the United Nations charter prohibiting the use of military force without its approval, to the permanent five members of the security council, Nesirky said.
“I’ve seen all kinds of reports suggesting that the departure of the chemical weapons team somehow opens a window to military action of some kind,” he continued. “Frankly, that’s grotesque and it’s an affront to the more than 1,000 UN staff who are on the ground in Syria delivering humanitarian aid. That work will continue.”
Nesirky said that “it would be prudent” to see who of the UN staff, many of whom are members of UNICEF and the World Food Program, “are most critical to the work that’s being done,” but would not confirm how many would be evacuated.
Ban met on Saturday for just over an hour with UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane, on her return from a meeting in Damascus with Syrian officials over the alleged chemical weapons attacks on August 21, 22, 24 and 25, Nesirky said.
Nesirky said the two discussed “her trip and the current status of the investigation.”
No time line was given for how long it would take the samples collected to be analyzed in various laboratories around Europe, but the spokesman said that the team was due to return to Syria to “investigate all pending allegations, including at Khan al-Assal,” the site of the alleged attack on July 22.
Nesirky was adamant that the team’s mandate would not be expanded beyond the current mission to determine simply whether there were chemical weapons attacks at the sites.
He also confirmed that Dr. Ake Sellström, head of the UN investigative team, was due to speak with Ban by telephone on Sunday from The Hague.
The Israeli Mission to the UN had no comment on Obama’s announcement or on the UN developments.