Statement in Explanation of Vote at the United Nations General Assembly on the Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic 15 May 2013

It is now more than two years since the beginning of the Syrian crisis and there is very little hope for a peaceful and sustainable solution.  As the Syrian crisis continues unabated, civilians are paying a heavy price as they are being killed, maimed and displaced on a daily basis.  This conflict has gone on for far too long under our watch and now is the time that we exerted our collective effort to bring peace to Syria. 

South Africa deplores the continuing violence and the tremendous loss of life in Syria, which is spiraling out of control.  We convey our deepest sympathy to the Syrian people for the significant loss of life and massive displacement of the population.  We call on all sides to the Syrian conflict to immediately stop the violence and focus on launching peaceful negotiations for a political transition in Syria, without precondition. Democracy is an unassailable right of the Syrian people and there must be a political solution reflective of the will of the Syrian people and that protects the rights of the Syrian people, including those of minority groups.

We appreciate the efforts of the UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian relief organisations in assisting the civilian population during these difficult times.

We are alarmed by the latest developments on the ground, in particular the alleged use of chemical weapons, escalating terrorism sectarianism, and atrocities.  South Africa welcomes the efforts of the Secretary-General to investigate the allegations on the use of chemical weapons and we urge the Syrian government and the UN inspectors to finalize the Terms of Reference without further delay.

South Africa welcomes the initiative of the Russian Federation and the United States calling for an international conference to discuss a political transition based the Geneva Communiqué of 2012.  We wish to reiterate our support for the Joint Special Representative and welcome his decision to remain in his post to assist with this conference.  In our view the international community as a whole should adhere to his requests for support and unify behind his efforts to move the parties to a negotiated settlement. This should be done whilst respecting the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria

That brings us to the text of the resolution.  First of all, South Africa is of the view that the general orientation of the resolution will not contribute to a negotiated settlement and in fact could undermine the efforts of the Joint Special Representative to bring all sides to the negotiating table.  We believe that the text is not balanced enough and holds the dangerous potential of emboldening elements of the opposition to the point where they are of the view that negotiations are not necessary. Simultaneously it could force the Syrian government to retreat to an uncompromising position and total disengagement.  South Africa reiterates that there are obligations on all parties to comply with the efforts of the Joint Special Representative and the Geneva Communiqué, which this resolution does not reflect accurately. 

We also have serious reservations over the timing of this resolution.  All efforts by the international community should be focused to quickly organize the proposed international conference and to garner the maximum support for that event – in our view this resolution does not do that – in fact its adoption today may actually undermine that positive development.  

In addition we are concerned that the resolution was not subjected to the normal multilateral process of broad consultation and negotiations.  We believe that the process was not transparent nor was it inclusive. In addition, while we were not given enough time and opportunity to comment and make input on the resolution, our general concerns were not taken into account including those formerly presented through the India-Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) trilateral mechanism to the main sponsor of the resolution.

It is for these reasons that South Africa will abstain on the resolution before us. As we vote in this manner, we have the interests of the Syrian people at heart and will continue to work will other members of the UN and the international community at large towards finding a genuine and lasting solution to the crisis in Syria.

In conclusion, it is a tragedy that the UN Security Council, a body tasked with the maintenance of international peace and security has, to date, not been able to agree on a solution to this protracted crisis. The Council has clearly abdicated its responsibilities in the face of a human calamity. The members of the Security Council seem to have prioritized their own national interests at the expense of the Syrian people. In this relation, we implore the Security Council to honour its responsibilities and work towards the peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis, which, if left unresolved for a long time could plunge the whole region into political and economic chaos.

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

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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