Statement on the situation in the Middle East (Syria)

South Africa is deeply concerned about the deteriorating political, security and humanitarian situation in Syria. We condemn the continued and violent loss of life in Syria and call for maximum restraint from all the parties to the conflict. We emphasize that there is an urgent need for the violence to cease immediately.

It is our hope that this situation will be resolved in a peaceful manner in accordance with the will of the Syrian people.  We reiterate that any solution to the Syrian crisis should be Syrian-led, based on genuine national dialogue, devoid of any form of intimidation and free of interference from outside.

We urge the Syrian authorities to initiate an open, transparent and all-inclusive political process with its people to address their legitimate demands in order to guarantee their fundamental political rights and freedoms, including their rights to freedom of assembly and speech. We also encourage the opposition to participate in this political process with a view to ensuring sustainable peace in Syria.

A comprehensive political solution must be found that would lead to political reform based on respect for democratic principles, rule of law, justice, and human rights.  It should also address the socio-economic development needs of the people of Syria, in order to ensure long-term peace and stability.

We appreciate the League of Arab States’ efforts aimed at achieving a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Syria.  On 12 January this year the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2033 which focused attention on enhanced cooperation between the UN and regional organizations in the maintenance of international peace and security.  South Africa therefore welcomes this engagement by the Council with the League of Arab States, who due to their proximity and knowledge of the region is able to play a meaningful role in assisting the Syrian people overcome their challenges. We hope that this engagement will lead to a peaceful political solution to the conflict in Syria. We strongly believe that any solution should respect the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, and at the same time uphold the purposes and principles enshrined in the UN Charter.

We thank the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States for providing the UNSC with the report of the Head of the League of Arab States Observer Mission to Syria, General al-Dabi.  This report, which is a first-hand account of developments on the ground, provides the UNSC with an invaluable assessment of the situation. As noted in the report, the Syrian citizens also believe that the crisis “should be resolved peacefully through Arab intervention alone, without international intervention” as “doing so would allow them to live in peace and complete the reform process and bring about the change they desire”.

It is imperative that there be an end to violence from all sides as it is apparent from the Observer Mission report that the opposition is also armed. Consequently, civilians bear the brunt of the violence perpetrated by the Government and armed opposition groups. 

The critical question at this juncture, is what positive contribution can we make as the international community to assist the Syrian parties resolve their conflict.  Action we take should be geared towards bringing the parties towards a peaceful resolution of their conflict rather than widening the gap between them. We therefore welcome the Arab League and all other diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the crisis in the country and we encourage Syrian parties to explore all opportunities to find a political solution.

We must avoid any action that may run the risk of further polarizing the parties and lead to an escalation of the violence. Military intervention to resolve political conflicts, as we have seen in other parts of the world and recently in the Libyan situation, has unintended consequences not only for the country in question but for the wider region.  This is something the Middle East can ill-afford.

We welcome the consideration of the situation in Syria through the draft resolutions before the UNSC. We call on all the commitments and principles expressed by the League of Arab States and other delegations be better expressed in future drafts. South Africa will engage constructively in the negotiations.

For further information, please contact Clayson Monyela, Spokesperson for DIRCO, on 082 884 5974.

Issued by: The Department of International Relations and Cooperation

02 February 2012

OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road 
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