United Nations Secretary-General "Ban Ki-moon" sparred with Syrian foreign minister Wednesday when he tried to cut short the minister’s speech at the "Geneva-2" international peace conference.
Walid al-Moallem had spoken for more than twice the 10-minute limit at the talks in Switzerland when Ban interrupted to urge him to bring his comments to a conclusion, but the intervention proved fruitless.
"You spoke for 25 minutes", al- Moallem shot back. "I came here 12 hours in the airplane. I need a few minutes to finish my speech".
"Can you just wrap up in one or two minutes?" Ban persisted.
"No I can’t promise you. I must finish my speech", came the reply from al-Moallem, who used his address to accuse militants of disemboweling pregnant women, raping them dead or alive and bombing mosques.
He also told participants that it was up to Syrians to choose their leader, not foreign powers who are calling on President Bashar al-Assad to step down, and pointedly accused Turkey and Gulf Arab states of fueling the violence in Syria.
Ban said he would have to give other speakers more time if al-Moallem did not stop, an appeal which also failed to impress the Syrian minister.
"You live in New York, I live in Syria. I have the right to give the Syrian version here in this hall. This is my right".
Ten minutes later, with no end in sight, Ban tried again.
"I will finish one sentence", Moallem told him.
"One sentence or two. Just to keep your promise, one sentence", the U.N. Secretary-General said.
"Syria always keeps its promise", al-Moallem answered, before wrapping up his hard-hitting, 35-minute address about a minute later.
At the start of the talks, aimed at ending Syria’s near three-year conflict, Ban had urged all participants to stick rigorously to their allocated time.