UN chief: Cold War back with a vengeance, keep things from spiraling out of control

UN chief: Cold War back with a vengeance, keep things from spiraling out of control
The UN Secretary-General has warned the Security Council that the tensions in the Middle East are posing a threat to global peace and called on parties involved to prevent the looming military escalation over Syria.

In his Friday address to the UN body tasked with preserving peace and international security, António Guterres said many conflicts in the Middle East have plunged the region into chaos that threatens peace and security. Those include not only regional ones, like the Shia-Sunni divide or the Arab-Palestinian conflict, but also the confrontation between Russia and the West.

“The Cold War is back – with a vengeance but with a difference. The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present,” he stressed.

There are many points of violence and tension in the Middle East, the UN chief said. Yemen is experiencing the largest humanitarian disaster in the world today. Palestinians protesting in the Gaza Strip near the border war erected by Israel and IDF's lethal response to it “resulted in many needless deaths and injuries”, according to Guterres. Libya remains in turmoil and Iraq struggles to reel back from the damage caused by the rise of the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

But the situation in Syria poses “the most serious threat to international peace and security” the UN secretary-general told the Security Council.

“In Syria, we see confrontations and proxy wars involving several national armies, a number of armed opposition groups, many national and international militia, foreign fighters from everywhere in the world, and various terrorist organizations,” Guterres said. “For eight long years, the people of Syria have endured suffering upon suffering.”

Guterres lamented the UNSC’s failure this week to issue a mandate to investigate the reports of use of chemical weapons in Syria and offered his support to the limited inspection by the OPCW currently underway in Douma. He called on members of the council to overcome their differences and start acting in accordance with their position.

“Increasing tensions and the inability to reach a compromise in the establishment of an accountability mechanism threaten to lead to a full-blown military escalation,” he warned. “In my contacts with you – especially with the Permanent Members of the Security Council – I have been reiterating my deep concerns about the risks of the current impasse and stressed the need to avoid the situation spiraling out of control.”

Guterres was speaking as the US and its allies are deciding on whether to use military force to punish the Syrian government for an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma last week. Russia says the attack was staged by a pro-militant group to trigger this reaction from the West, and that it would oppose a possible attack on Syria. The differences between the sides resulted in a failure to agree on a resolution authorizing an investigation into the incident at the UNSC earlier this week.

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