26 September 2011 Syrian authorities will continue to undertake political, social and economic reforms but they will also act to protect citizens from “blatant conspiracies” aimed at sabotaging national security or inviting outside interventions, the country’s Foreign Minister told the United Nations today.
Addressing the General Assembly’s annual general debate, Walid al-Moualem said the reform process is “a work in progress” in Syria, where large numbers of protesters have for months been calling for greater democracy and freedoms.
He said many of the demands for reform have already been met, and they will continue through a process of national dialogue based on “national unity, sovereignty and independence.”
He cited changes announced in June to liberalize the country’s media, guarantee political pluralism and reform the staging of parliamentary elections and the management of local government.
Top UN officials have repeatedly expressed concern this year about the nature of the Government’s response to the largely peaceful protest movement, with at least 2,600 Syrians estimated to have been killed after military forces clashed with demonstrators.
The UN Human Rights Council has ordered an inquiry into the violence after an earlier UN fact-finding mission outlined a litany of Government abuses, including murders, enforced disappearances and acts of torture.
But Mr. al-Moualem said the overriding focus of authorities has been to deal with “the external pressures which were at times tantamount to blatant conspiracies.”
He said that “popular demands and claims have been manipulated to further objectives which are alien to the interests and express desires of the Syrian people. These demands were the stepping stone used by armed groups to sow discord and sabotage our security. They became the new pretext for foreign interventions.
“Syria exercised its responsibility to protect its citizens. It acted to guarantee their safety and stability. Vigilance against the danger of foreign intervention that assumes a different form with each passing day, and challenging it does not mean underestimating popular demands.”
Mr. al-Moualem said there had been a “surge in the activities of armed groups” within Syria that was a “manifestation of foreign intervention,” and he criticized moves by the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions, saying they would hurt the daily needs of ordinary Syrians.
Describing his country as a model of coexistence that has opted for secularism over religious or ethnic favouritism, the Foreign Minister said that the clear “purpose of this unjust anti-Syria campaign currently under way is to attack this model of coexistence that has been a source of pride to our people.
“How we can otherwise explain media provocations, financing and arming religious extremism? What purpose could this serve other than total chaos that would dismember Syria – and consequently adversely affect its neighbours?”
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