Asked about South Africa's position ahead of the vote at the United Nations (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, 19 July 2012, the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim, said:
"South Africa deplores the continuing violence in Syria, which is 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.
"There is no military solution to the dispute. It is for this reason that South Africa strongly supports the tireless efforts of Mr Annan.
"The bomb in Damascus yesterday, which resulted in the death of senior government officials including the Defence Minister, Daoud Rajha, coupled with the many horrific massacres that have taken place over the past few weeks, clearly shows that there are two sides to this conflict.
"You will recall that the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent confirmed this on Monday when they classified the situation as being an internal armed conflict, or in layman's terms, a civil war.
"We have also noted the statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, that 'there are indications that the situation in Syria, at least in certain areas, may amount to a non-international armed conflict thus entailing obligations on both sides under international law'.
"Such classifications are a clear indication that the situation has 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. It is incumbent on the UN Security Council to express strong and unified support for Mr 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 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.
"South Africa also thanks the UN Supervision Mission in Syria for their tireless efforts in support of peace and dialogue. We view the extension of UNSMIS's mandate as recommended by the UN Secretary-General as crucial."