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November 22, 2013 1:36 pm

U.N. Security Council Was Late on Syria, Says Deputy Secretary General; ‘Veto Power Needs to be Limited’

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UN Security Council. Photo: wiki commons.

The United Nations Security Council was late to act on Syria, the international body’s deputy secretary-general, Jan Eliasson, told Hurriyet Daily News in an interview on Friday.

“We regret very much that there has not been any unity in the council for such a long time. Radical extreme groups have been growing in importance during this period. These groups in the field are much stronger when compared to a year or two years ago,” Eliasson said.

More than 120,000 people have died in the nearly three-year-old civil war in the country. In recent months, the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have reportedly made gains over rebel forces with the help of Iran and Hezbollah fighters.

“This is another grim reminder of the importance of … acting early. I wish there had been political moves already at the beginning of this conflict. Syrians would not have reached this level of suffering,” he said.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – have veto powers on the panel. Russia and China have already vetoed three resolutions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Eliasson told Hurriyet that he hopes that a planned Geneva peace conference will prove fruitful, as he believes only a political solution can end the war. “I’m absolutely convinced that there is no military victory.”

“There were illusions last year and even two years ago. Look where we are,” Eliasson said, citing the transfer of weapons to both sides in the conflict.

Asked if there was a reform plan for the council in the near future, Eliasson was pessimistic. “It is the most difficult issue. For many years, we [have covered] very little distance on this issue,” he told Hurriyet.

“There was an interesting sign in the debate last September where France suggested that in cases of mass crime and mass atrocities, the veto should not be applied. At least there is this beginning of a realization that the veto power needs to be limited,” he said.

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