Listen to demands of world's peoples

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Now let me turn to the biggest peace and security [challenge] in the world, the crisis in Syria. Well over 100,000 people have been killed. Well over 7 million people — a third of the total population — have fled their homes. Families are under siege. Cities and towns lie in rubble. The economy is in ruins. Communities, once alive with a blend of traditions and faiths, have been torn apart.

The region is being dangerously destabilized. We have seen the worst chemical weapons attack on civilians in a quarter century.

A lost generation of young people now fills refugee camps. Who among us can say that they, and their mothers and fathers, are wrong to feel abandoned by the international community?

We face a moment of reckoning. The Syrian Government must fully and quickly honour the obligations it has assumed in acceding to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The international community must bring to justice the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in Syria — confirmed unequivocally by the UN investigation mission. The international community must also, with equal determination, ensure the safeguarding and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and programmes.

But we can hardly be satisfied with destroying chemical weapons while the wider war is still destroying all of Syria. The vast majority of the killing and atrocities have been carried out with conventional weapons. I appeal to all States to stop fuelling the bloodshed and to end the arms flows to all the parties.

I look forward to the imminent adoption of an enforceable and binding Security Council resolution on chemical weapons. This should be followed immediately by humanitarian action. United Nations human rights monitors could play a useful role in reporting and deterring further violations.

I call on the Syrian Government and the opposition to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. They must lift all obstacles to humanitarian access, and end the unconscionable targeting of medical facilities and personnel. They must release the thousands of men, women and children whose detention has no basis in international law.

Full accountability for serious international crimes is also vital — either through referral to the International Criminal Court or by other means consistent with international law. The response to the heinous use of chemical weapons has created diplomatic momentum — the first signs of unity in far too long. Now we must build on it to get the parties to the negotiating table.

I have been consistently saying that military victory is an illusion. The only answer is a political settlement. I appeal to the Government of Syria and the opposition — and, Excellencies, I appeal to all those in this hall with influence over them — to make the Geneva II conference happen as soon as possible. It is time to end the killing, and to reach the peace the Syrian people need and deserve.

Lifting our sights from Syria, we can see tremendous stress and upheaval across the region. Historic transitions have stumbled or slowed. Springs of inspiration are giving way to winters of disillusionment. The challenges are immense: building democracy and pluralistic dialogue; dousing the flames of sectarianism; filling the security vacuum after the iron grip of dictators is gone.

But this story is still being written. We must do our utmost to help these reforms succeed. We must seize potential openings and respond to declarations of goodwill. Each nation will chart its own course. We cannot be complacent where there is backsliding, but rather insist on respect for universal values: human rights, tolerance and political inclusion. These are the foundations of peace and prosperity.

I welcome the re-engagement of Israelis and Palestinians in direct negotiations, and the bold diplomacy that made this possible. If we are serious about achieving a two-State solution, then we must recognize that the window is closing fast. I urge the parties to show leadership — and a sense of the long-term interests of their peoples and the region. I am going to convene the Quartet principals meeting later this week here in New York to lend our strong support to this ongoing Middle East peace process.

Looking beyond the Middle East and North Africa, I see Africans writing a new narrative of dynamism, democracy and sustained, impressive economic growth. Political progress in Somalia, credible elections in Mali, more robust peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a new framework of hope for the Great Lakes region — these are gains to build on.

At the same time, the misery and volatility in the Sahel continues. There has been a breakdown in law and order in the Central African Republic. Millions of people are cut off from assistance and face abuse. Yet like the humanitarian appeal for Syria, our call for help for the Central African Republic is woefully underfunded. And in the past week alone, in appalling attacks in Kenya, Iraq and Pakistan, we have been given grim reminders about the ability of terrorists to cause havoc and harm.

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