19 July 2012

Africa: South Africa Clarifies Position On Syria

Clarifying its stand on Syria, South Africa has strongly condemned Wednesday's suicide bombing in the country, saying that it is opposed all forms of terrorism and violence.

The attack killed senior Syrian officials, including Defence Minister Dawood Rajaha, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar, as well as President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law.

Asked about South Africa's position ahead of the vote at the UN Security Council on the extension of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria's (UNSMIS) mandate expected to take place in New York later today, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Ebrahim Ebrahim said South Africa deplored the continuing violence in Syria, which was "spinning out of control".

"Our highest priority is to stop the killing and end the suffering of innocent civilians. We have been calling for an immediate end to the violence and for talks to begin to reach a Syrian-led political transition reflecting the will of the Syrian people."

He said Wednesday's bombing and the many other horrific massacres that have taken place over the past few weeks, clearly showed that there were two sides to the conflict.

Referring to the International Committee of the Red Cross/ Crescent on Monday where they classified the situation as being an internal armed conflict - or in layman's terms a civil war - Ebrahim said such classifications were a clear indication that the situation had reached a threshold of a civil war in which all parties have 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."

Ebrahim said South Africa was deeply worried about the rising tensions and stressed that the relevant parties in Syria to immediately cease fire and bring an end to the violence.

He reiterated that no military solution can solve the dispute and that South Africa continued to support the tireless efforts of Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan.

He added that it was incumbent on the UN Security Council to express strong and unified support for Annan and to call on all parties to cease the violence immediately.

"The UN Charter after all determines that the Security Council should make proposals for conflict resolution and address failures of implementation with its decisions, and that it should do so: without prejudice to the rights, claims and positions of the parties concerned."

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

The plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.

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