May 17 - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the international community must not lose momentum on a planned Syria conference and calls on Bashar al-Assad to allow UN inspectors to probe chemical weapons attack claims. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday urged countries to continue to focus on the conflict in Syria and called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to allow UN investigators into the country to investigate claims of chemical weapons attacks. Ban met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Black Sea resort of Sochi where the UN chief is also expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday. He praised Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for their leadership in proposing and organising an urgent meeting of stakeholders in the conflict. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UN SECRETARY-GENERAL, BAN KI-MOON, SAYING: "We should not lose this momentum generated by Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry. There is a high expectation that this meeting should be held as soon as possible." The meeting will aim to include the same global powers that attended a 2012 meeting on Syria in Geneva, but this time would also have representatives of the Syrian government and opposition. Ban also said he was disappointed that UN investigators have been denied access to Syria to investigate reports of the use of chemical weapons in the conflict. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UN SECRETARY-GENERAL, BAN KI-MOON, SAYING: "Our team is ready at any time. Within 24 to 48 hours notice, they can immediately conduct an investigation. I again urge the Syrian authorities to be flexible and allow our teams to have an on-site investigation." The Syrian conflict started with mainly peaceful demonstrations against the government in March 2011, but turned into a civil war in which the United Nations says at least 80,000 people have been killed.