Govt condemns violence in Syria

2012-07-19 22:25
South Africa deplores the continuing violence in Syria, which is spinning out of control, says Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Ebrahim Ebrahim. (File, GCIS)

South Africa deplores the continuing violence in Syria, which is spinning out of control, says Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Ebrahim Ebrahim. (File, GCIS)

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Johannesburg - The South African government added its voice to the growing alarm over the conflict in Syria, ahead of a United Nations Security Council Meeting on the situation on Thursday.

"South Africa deplores the continuing violence in Syria, which is spinning out of control," said Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Ebrahim Ebrahim.

"Our highest priority is to stop the killing and end the suffering of innocent civilians," he said.

The meeting was supposed to have taken place on Wednesday but was postponed in a disagreement over what has been reported as a "West-East" disagreement over whether sanctions should be imposed.

South Africa had been calling for an immediate end to the violence and for talks to reach a Syrian-led transition reflecting the will of the Syrians.

"There is no military solution to the dispute. It is for this reason that South Africa strongly supports the tireless efforts of Mr Annan," he said referring to Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan.

Ebrahim said the bomb in the capital Damascus on Wednesday, which killed senior government officials including defence minister Daoud Rajha, and "the many horrific massacres" of the past few weeks show there were two sides to the conflict.

Agence France Presse reported Syrian media as saying on Wednesday that President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shawkat and General Hassan Turkmani, head of the government's crisis cell on the uprising, were also killed.

Ebrahim said the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent had classified the situation as being an internal armed conflict, or in layman's terms, a civil war. Such classifications were a clear indication that the situation had reached a threshold of a civil war in which all parties had responsibilities and obligations under international humanitarian law.

"The international community must urgently respond to the escalating violence in Syria in a stern and balanced manner, based on the realities on the ground," continued Ebrahim.

Balanced decision

The Security Council should "express strong and unified support for Mr Annan and to call on all parties to cease the violence immediately".

He said the UN Charter determines that the Security Council should make proposals for conflict resolution and address failures of implementation with its decisions, without prejudice to the rights of the parties concerned.

"South Africa will therefore support any decision of the Security Council that is balanced and geared towards supporting Mr Annan's call for all sides in the conflict to adhere to their commitments under his six point plan."

A UN communiqué said that the crisis had "continued unabated" since an uprising against Assad began about 16 months ago.

The UN estimated that over 10 000 people, mostly civilians, had been killed there and tens of thousands displaced.

The UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) had also recently suspended its regular patrols due to the escalating violence on the ground.

Its mandate ends on 20 July and Thursday's discussions were expected to also decide whether to extend the mandate.

South Africa supported the extension of the mandate, Ebrahim said.

The six point plan that Annan proposed and hoped Syria would accept included that they commit to work with the envoy, that they stop the fighting, stop troop movements in populated areas, start pulling troops out of these areas, allow freedom of movement in the country for journalists, and respect the people's right to demonstrate peacefully.

It also calls for the release of arbitrarily detained prisoners and a list of where they are, and for the provision of humanitarian assistance.

These commitments would also be sought by the envoy, from the opposition, and all relevant elements, to stop the fighting.

Read more on:    kofi annan  |  bashar assad  |  ebrahim ebrahim  |  sa  |  syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings

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