Ban says Assad committed 'crimes against humanity'
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UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Friday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had committed “many crimes against humanity”. He told FRANCE 24 that if an August chemical attack were proven it would constitute “a horrendous violation of international law”.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has "committed many crimes against humanity", UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday, as US and Russian officials extended talks on stemming the threat of Syria's chemical weapons into a third day through to Saturday.
"What happened is that he has committed many crimes against humanity. Therefore, I'm sure that there will be surely the process of accountability when everything is over," he said.
UN experts will give "overwhelming" confirmation that chemical weapons were used in an August 21 chemical attack outside Damascus, Ban predicted, but stopped short of saying that Assad's forces were responsible.
Ban sat down with FRANCE 24 in the hours after his comments on Friday, saying that if a chemical weapons attack is confirmed by UN experts, it would be “a horrendous violation of international law”.
“I believe the international community should take the firm and necessary action to make sure that this kind of crime never happens again,” he said, adding that the UN Security Council would need to play a “decisive role” in preventing a recurrence.
“The only viable option is a political solution” for the Syrian crisis, Ban told FRANCE 24.
Ban also said Friday that the UN agreed with US estimates that more than 1,400 people were killed in the August 21 attack at Ghouta, east of Damascus, which led to the latest Western threats of a military strike on Assad's forces.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov have extended talks in Geneva on putting Syria's chemical arms under international control for a third day, with negotiations now expected to continue through to Saturday.
The French presidency, meanwhile, announced that US, French and British foreign ministers will meet in Paris on Monday for more talks on the crisis.
The United States, Britain and France blame Assad for the chemical attack while the Syrian government, backed by Russia, says it was opposition rebels who used the banned gas.
The leader of the UN’s chemical inquiry, Ake Sellstrom, is expected to submit the findings of his report on Monday but his mandate does not include an assessment of who carried out the attack. Diplomats say, however, that details – such as the type of chemicals and missiles involved – could indicate who was responsible.
The UN's humanitarian crisis chief on Friday raised new concerns about gaining access to areas around Damascus, where hundreds of thousands of people are trapped by the fighting.
"People are unable to leave sealed-off government or opposition-held areas, sometimes for months on end, and have run short of water, food, power and medicines," said Valerie Amos, the UN's under-secretary general and emergency relief coordinator.
"I am extremely worried by reports that more than 500,000 people remain trapped in rural Damascus," she said.
Amos said the UN had taken $50 million from its emergency finances to get supplies to people inside Syria and help the more than two million people who have fled to neighbouring countries.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)