No peace possible in Syria without end to arming of ‘terrorist groups,’ minister tells UN

Deputy Prime Minister Walid Al-Moualem of Syria. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

1 October 2012 – Attempts to bring peace to Syria will need other countries to stop providing weapons to armed groups in the Middle Eastern country’s ongoing conflict, the Syrian Deputy Prime Minister, Walid Al-Moualem, told the United Nations General Assembly today.

“I would like to tell you that the success of any international effort requires, in addition to the commitment of the Syrian Government, committing the states supporting armed groups in my country, particularly Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya and others, to stop arming, funding, training and harbouring armed terrorist groups, and instead to encourage dialogue and renounce violence,” the Deputy Prime Minister told the 67th Assembly’s on the last day of its General Debate, taking place at UN Headquarters in New York.

The crisis in Syria has seen over 18,000 people killed and hundreds of thousands of others driven from their homes since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted some 19 months ago. A further 2.5 million Syrians urgently need humanitarian aid, according to UN estimates.

Syria believes a political solution is the only solution possible to end the conflict, Deputy Prime Minister Al-Moualem said, and called for all countries in the General Assembly to exert pressure on those providing support to “terrorist groups” in Syria, in order to allow for a “constructive dialogue” amongst all parties and political groups in there, and for the results of the dialogue to form the basis for establishing a “more pluralistic and democratic Syria.”

The Syrian Government official noted that amidst the challenges facing the world, many people expect international efforts to resolve these problems, but “the reality indicates, instead, the escalation of hegemony and domination on the fortunes of nations and peoples in a way that contradicts the principles and purposes enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international law.”

As examples of principles used by some countries as a pretext to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries, he cited the principles of humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect. Sometimes known as ‘R2P,’ the principle of the responsibility to protect holds States responsible for shielding their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and related crimes against humanity and requires the international community to step in if this obligation is not met.

“Perhaps, worse of all, is to see that permanent members of the Security Council, who launched wars under the pretext of combating terrorism, now support terrorism in my country without any regard to the United Nations resolutions that established the regulations and mechanisms for concerted international efforts to fight this scourge away from political polarization and double standards,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

Furthermore, he added, some Security Council members have been supporting the “organized terrorism” taking place in his country, particularly with the supply of weapons.

“Those states either turn a blind eye to the activities of terrorist groups crossing their borders, or provide active material and logistical support from their territory for armed terrorist groups,” Deputy Prime Minister Al-Moualem said. “These facts make me question whether this international consensus by our States on combating terrorism was serious, or it was just merely ink on paper?”

“We also wonder,” he added, “to what extent the statements of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States and France, that clearly induce and support terrorism in Syria with money, weapons and foreign fighters, are in line with the international responsibilities of these countries in combating terrorism.”

The Syrian official noted that his country has cooperated with international efforts to resolve the conflict – including the suspended Arab Observer Group, and the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), for which the Security Council-mandate ended in August – and had committed to a six-point peace plan put forward earlier this year by the then-Joint Special Envoy for the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan, as well as the communiqué issued in Geneva after a meeting of the UN-backed Action Group in June.

The Action Group agreed to a six-point peace plan calling 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, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.

It also agreed on a set of principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led transition that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people, which includes the establishment of a transitional governing body that would exercise full executive powers and be made up by members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups.

In his statement, the Deputy Prime Minister also welcomed the recent appointment of the UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, noting Syria’s willingness to work with him.

Deputy Prime Minister Al-Moualem also highlighted the Middle East peace process, noting his country’s support for a “free and independent Palestinian State on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.”

“The failure of efforts to achieve just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of international terms of reference adopted by the international community as a basis for peace between Palestinians and Israelis is due, as everyone knows, to the unilateral positions and actions of Israel, particularly Israel's insistence on continuing its settlement policy and evasion of requirements of peace,” he said.

Other topics addressed in his remarks included the need for a nuclear weapon-free Middle East and the lifting of embargos and other “unilateral coercive measures” placed on certain countries, such as the US embargo on Cuba.

The Syrian official is one of scores of world leaders and other high-level officials presenting their views and comments on issues of individual, national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends later on Monday.


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