Prime Minister John Key is using the Syrian crisis to urge reform of the United Nations Security Council as he garners support in New York for New Zealand's bid to hold a seat on the United Nations body.
Key arrived in New York this morning NZT for a whirl of diplomatic meet-and-greets where he will press New Zealand's case for a non-permanent seat on the council in 2015-16.
The UN General Assembly opened this morning with a challenge from United States President Barack Obama for countries to do more to end Syria's civil war.
More than 100,000 people have died in the conflict and countries including the US and New Zealand have accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or using chemical weapons in his bid to put down a rebellion against him.
"Our response has not matched the scale of the challenge," Obama said.
"The crisis in Syria and the destabilisation of the region goes to the heart of the broader challenges the international community must now face."
Obama called for the quick passage of a Security Council resolution enforcing an agreement negotiated by Russia under which Assad would give up his chemical weapons arsenal, and said it was the "bare minimum" that the UN must do.
Key said the crisis underscored the need for Security Council reform.
"We desperately believe there should be reform of the security council," he said.
That reform included expanding the basis on which non-permanent members served on the council, and ruling out power of Security Council member countries to use their power to veto action against potential genocide or war crimes.
"These are situations where a veto is sometimes potentially used at the huge human cost of those involved and we think that's wrong," he said.
The prime minister said the evidence was "very clear" that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people "and we don't think the veto should be used essentially to stop the Security Council taking firm action against Syria".
Russia and China have vetoed various resolutions against Syria.
They also warned the US against a military strike in response to the latest chemical weapons attack.
Key said that while military action was "not necessarily" the answer, the Assad regime should be held to account "and those chemical weapons shouldn't be in control of a leader who's used them against his own people".
At the moment "the best offer on the table" was the deal negotiated by Russia for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons arsenal.
"But it doesn't take away from the fact that it's been an awfully long time for action to be taken whatever that action is," he said.
"I think that shows you there's a part of the UN Security Council that's not working."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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