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.
Burying victims in Houla (video image)
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.”
Preventing the fire spreading
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.
Supporting the observer mission
The first head of the observer mission, Robert Mood, in Homs
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.
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.
- Security Council Press Statement on attacks in Syria, 25. 5. 2012
- Resolution 2043 (2012) of the United Nations Security Council on the establishment of an observer mission in Syria
- Resolution 2042 (2012) of the United Nations Security Council on Syria
- European Council conclusions on Syria, 23 April 2012 PDF | 39 KB
- EU's decisions to date on sanctions against Syria
- Chairmen's Conclusion of the International Meeting of the Working Group on Economic Recovery and Development of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People, Abu Dhabi, 24. 5. 2012 PDF | 10 KB
Last updated 01.06.2012