The violence in Syria must end now
Demonstrations in Douma
© picture alliance / dpa
In New York Foreign Minister Westerwelle has called on the United Nations Security Council to fulfil its responsibilities and send a “strong signal” to Syria. The Council met on 12 March to discuss the situation in the Middle East. In his speech to the members of the most powerful United Nations body, he also praised the constructive role being played by the Arab League. The violent clashes which have been shaking Syria are continuing unabated.
At the Security Council session in New York, Foreign Minister Westerwelle was campaigning for three goals: an end to the violence, immediate and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid for the population, and a peaceful political transition based on the resolutions passed by the Arab League.
Westerwelle had previously welcomed news that increasing numbers of top political and military officials were evidently distancing themselves from the Assad regime. “The regime has started to disintegrate,” he said. Speaking in Berlin on 9 March, he predicted that we would keep seeing more signs of erosion, as no country could be governed indefinitely by brutality and repression.
Support for the Special Envoy
Foreign Minister Westerwelle during his speech in the Security Council
He also pledged his support for the work being done by Kofi Annan, the new Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States. Annan visited Syria on 10 May to present President Assad with his ideas for resolving the crisis. Members of the Special Envoy’s staff are going to Damascus on 19 March to assess the likelihood of a ceasefire and an international observer mission.
“We share his view that we should be aiming not to escalate the situation but to prevent a conflagration that could engulf the region,” Westerwelle said. He explained that the German Government and its partners in Europe had chosen sanctions and international isolation as the means to that end. As he pointed out, in contrast, Germany considered it counterproductive to discuss military intervention.
Vetoes from Russia and China have so far prevented the UN Security Council from condemning the violence. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did recently criticize the Assad regime for “delaying reform”. Minister Westerwelle expressed the hope that this criticism marked the beginning of a policy change in Moscow.
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos travelled to Syria on 7 March to gather information about the humanitarian situation in the country and to push for humanitarian access for United Nations assistance.
Human Rights Council condemns violence in Syria
United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva during the debate on Syria
In an urgent debate in Geneva on 1 March, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution by a large majority strongly condemning the “widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” by Syria’s leadership.
The Human Rights Council has called for an immediate end to the Syrian regime’s human rights violations as well as unimpeded humanitarian access for the UN. At the same time, those responsible for human rights violations in Syria are to be held accountable.
Foreign Minister Westerwelle issued the following statement on the Human Rights Council resolution:
There was a clear signal from Geneva: those who violate human and civil rights will be held accountable by the international community. Both within the United Nations and elsewhere, our intense efforts to end the violence and bring about a fresh start in Syrian politics will continue.
The resolution comes after an independent international commission of inquiry established by the UN Human Rights Council reported that systematic human rights violations had been committed in Syria, above all by the regime. The report states that even children have been the targets of extreme brute force.
International pressure is increasing
The Conference of the "Friends of the Syrian people"
At their first conference, held in Tunis on 24 February, the Friends of the Syrian People group (known as the Contact Group) discussed ways to end the violence and humanitarian crisis in Syria. Professor Burhan Ghalioun, head of the Syrian National Council, gave a speech in which he called for a political solution to the conflict. The Group plans to convene again in Istanbul in early April.
The Group endorses the Arab League’s efforts, including the roadmap for peace it put forward at the end of January and its attempts, together with western states, to ensure the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution condemning the violence in Syria. In Foreign Minister Westerwelle’s opinion, the Arab League is playing a “key role” in tackling the conflict.
So far, the EU has imposed twelve rounds of sanctions on Syria in response to the violence. It has imposed an arms embargo and an oil embargo, as well as travel restrictions and asset freezes on numerous members of the regime. On 27 February in Brussels, EU Foreign Ministers also imposed a landing ban for Syrian cargo planes at EU airports and limited trading in gold and other precious metals. The assets of the Syrian central bank in the EU were also frozen.
According to UN estimates, over 8000 people in Syria have been killed by the security forces since the start of unrest in March 2011. At least 30,000 Syrians are reported to have fled the country, while many others are internally displaced. The German Government has so far provided 3.2 million euro in humanitarian aid.
- United Nation's Human Rights Council Resolution on Syria, 29. 2. 2012 PDF | 152 KB
- Council conclusions on Syria, 27 February 2012 PDF | 33 KB
- EU's decisions to date on sanctions against Syria
- Chairman's conclusions of the International Conference of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People PDF | 84 KB
- Report of the UN Human Rights Council independent commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, 22 February 2012 PDF | 13 MB
Last updated 19.03.2012