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Syria's crisis looms over UN gathering of world leaders

UN chief Ban Ki-moon is urging for a political solution to the Syrian conflict [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 September, 2015

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A number of world leaders have converged on the United Nations to address the Middle East unrest and other global issues related to peace and international security.

The UN secretary-general for the first time Monday called for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court, as world leaders including President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin were addressing a global gathering with conflict at centre stage.

Ban Ki-moon's state of the world address to leaders from the UN's 193 member states came shortly before Obama, Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are to speak to the UN General Assembly in the morning session alone.

The UN chief insisted on a political solution to the conflict in Syria, now well into its fifth year with more than a quarter of a million people killed.

Ban said five countries "hold the key" to a political solution to Syria: Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran.

He said "innocent Syrians pay the price of more barrel bombs and terrorism" and there must be no impunity for "atrocious" crimes.

The Syrian conflict is "driven by regional powers and rivalries," Ban said.

On the sidelines of this week's meeting, leaders and diplomats from the major players are trying to address them.

Other crises at the centre of discussions include the related refugee and migrant crisis, the largest since the upheaval of World War II.

Ban warned that resources to address these crises are dangerously low.

"The global humanitarian system is not broken; it is broke," he said.

The UN has just half of what it needs to help people in Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen, and just a third of what's needed for Syria.

The UN chief, in unusually hard-hitting words, also urged the world to unite against the "blatant brutality" of extremist groups including the Islamic State.

He blamed "proxy battles of others" for driving the fighting in Yemen, and he warned against "the dangerous drift" in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it is essential for the international community to pressure both sides to re-engage.

Monday's address by Putin, who has showed up the UN gathering for the first time in a decade, was one of the most highly anticipated.

The Russian president also met Obama on the sidelines Monday afternoon.

Others set to speak Monday included French President Francois Hollande and Cuban President Raul Castro, who also has a meeting planned with Obama.

Some, including Obama, Xi and Hollande, already addressed the General Assembly over the weekend during a separate global summit on sweeping new UN development goals for the next 15 years.

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