Stepping up pressure on Syria further

In an emergency session on 27 May, the United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned Syrian security forces’ acts of violence in the town of Houla. More than a hundred civilians, including many children, were killed in attacks carried out by Syrian Government units on the night of 25-26 May. On 1 June the Human Rights Council in Geneva requested an inquiry into the brutal events.

Foreign Minister Westerwelle welcomed the Security Council’s clear condemnation and made plain that “the international community cannot go back to business as usual when the Syrian regime is committing such atrocious acts of violence against its own people”. The German Government had pushed for the emergency session. In view of the bloodshed, Germany declared the Syrian ambassador in Berlin persona non grata on 29 May and expelled him from the country. This action was taken in coordination with other countries, including France, Italy, Spain, the UK, the US, Australia and Canada, all of which have likewise expelled Syrian diplomats.

The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva has also addressed the bloodshed in Syria. On 1 June the Council approved by a large majority a resolution calling for an immediate end to violent acts by the Syrian regime, and demanding that those responsible for grave human rights violations be brought to justice. An independent Commission of Inquiry established by the Human Rights Council has been charged with investigating the events in Houla. Foreign Minister Westerwelle said, “By resolving to investigate the recent atrocities in Syria the Human Rights Council has sent the unmistakeable message that whoever commits crimes such as those in Houla will be held accountable to the international community.”

Click here for more on the Human Rights Council and the resolution on the HRC website

Preventing the fire spreading

Kofi Annan pays a visit to Syrian refugees in Turkey, 10. 4. 2012

Kofi Annan pays a visit to Syrian refugees in Turkey
© picture-alliance/abaca

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Kofi Annan pays a visit to Syrian refugees in Turkey, 10. 4. 2012

Kofi Annan pays a visit to Syrian refugees in Turkey

Kofi Annan pays a visit to Syrian refugees in Turkey

In contact with the Syrian opposition and the Syrian National Council, the German Government and its partners are strongly pursuing a political solution in Syria. On 30 May Westerwelle demanded that the international community “cohesively and resolutely step up political and diplomatic pressure on the Assad regime further”. He spoke of the particular duty of those “who still hesitate to stop backing the Assad regime”. In a newspaper interview on 1 June, the Minister said Russia played a “key role”. In Germany’s view, according to Westerwelle, Russia should recognize “that we are not working against its strategic interests in seeking to end the violence in Syria”.

At the same time, the Minister warned against speculation about the possibility of military intervention. “In this difficult situation,” according to Westerwelle, “it’s important not to make military intervention seem like a silver bullet of swift resolution.” Political efforts, he said, needed to continue. The task at hand, the Minister added, was to prevent the fire spreading throughout the region.

Click here to read an interview with Foreign Minister Westerwelle in the newspaper “Die Welt”, 1 June 2012

Supporting the observer mission

Germany supports the UN observer mission UNSMIS, which is charged with monitoring adherence to Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan. Annan’s plan envisages the initiation of a political dialogue, access for humanitarian organizations, the release of political prisoners, freedom of movement for journalists, and freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully in Syria.

The German Government is prepared to take part in the observer mission. On 16 May, the Federal Cabinet decided that a total of up to ten unarmed military observers could be seconded to the mission, which is intended to support the UN’s and Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s efforts to resolve the crisis politically.

A staff officer is to be sent to Syria initially. Up to ten additional military observers can then be sent over the course of the mission. As the observers are to be unarmed, the Bundestag’s approval is not required. However, Foreign Minister Westerwelle did inform all the parliamentary groups about the decision.

The German Government had already offered to provide material and logistical support for the mission. Specifically, Germany provided 400,000 US dollars to finance the air transportation from Italy to Syria of vehicles and equipment urgently needed for the observer mission.

The basis for the observer mission in Syria is a unanimous decision by the United Nations Security Council on 21 April. Up to 300 observers are to monitor adherence to the ceasefire in force since 12 April as well as the implementation of Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan. The mission is called UNSMIS. The unarmed military observers will be aided by civilian support personnel. The Security Council Resolution stipulates that the mission should be guaranteed “full freedom of movement” in the country.

EU sanctions

On 14 May the EU Foreign Ministers agreed a 15th round of sanctions against the Syrian Government. More people and companies have now been included in the ban on entering the EU, and their assets held in the EU have been frozen. The previous round of sanctions adopted on 23 April focused on what are known as dual-use goods: biological or chemical materials which could potentially be used to suppress the Syrian population. Sanctions were also imposed on the export of luxury goods to Syria.

Last updated 01.06.2012

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