Syria: signal from the Security Council needed

Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle supports the work the Arab League is doing with regard to Syria. Westerwelle said that this was an opportunity for Security Council members still hesitating to rethink their position. The Arab League’s efforts, he said, provided an endorsement of EU initiatives. “We are continuing alongside our Arab partners to push for a Security Council resolution,” pledged Westerwelle, elaborating that the resolution was to brand the Assad regime for its misdemeanours and call for the transition to democracy in Syria.

In Cairo on 22 January, the Arab League presented its proposals for a road map for Syria’s future. The core of the plan is the call for Syria’s Government and opposition to begin a political dialogue within two weeks that should lead to the formation of a government of national unity within two months.

Its main task is to be preparing parliamentary and presidential elections within three months. President Assad is called upon to transfer to his first deputy the authority necessary to implement the roadmap. The UN Security Council will be asked to support the roadmap.

Foreign Minister Westerwelle welcomed the Arab League’s decisions, calling them a “pioneering, crucial contribution by the region to solving the difficult crisis in Syria”. Westerwelle also supports the Arab League in its efforts to see the Security Council take up the issue of violence in Syria again. He called on the Security Council members still hesitating to take the Arab League’s decision as an opportunity to rethink their position.

The Security Council will again discuss responding to the violence in Syria on 31 January. Among those present will be the Secretary General of the Arab League and the Prime Minister of Qatar, and the session will include reports on the situation in the country from Security Council members.

Arab League observer mission

The first Arab League observers have been in the country since 26 December. The Arab League recently admitted that the mission had only partly been able to fulfil its function and called on the Syrian Government to implement immediately and completely the commitments it made when it signed the protocol on the observer mission.

On 22 January, the Arab League also decided to extend the observer mission by one month. However, the participating Gulf states have for the time being recalled their observers.

The Arab League has temporarily excluded the Syrian delegation from its bodies and on 27 November agreed sanctions to impose on the country, including the suspension of transactions with the Syrian central bank, the halting of financial assistance to Syrian projects, and travel restrictions on high-ranking Syrian officials. This is the first time in its history that the Arab League has imposed sanctions on a member state.

Syria at the United Nations

Delegates at a meeting of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly

Delegates at a meeting of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly
© UN Photo

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Delegates at a meeting of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly

Delegates at a meeting of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly

Delegates at a meeting of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly

On 19 December 2011, the General Assembly of the United Nations condemned the human rights violations in Syria. The resolution, which was adopted by a large majority, was “an important – and clear – signal from the international community to the regime in Damascus”, Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle said.

Germany has been urging for a Security Council resolution on the situation in Syria for some time. The Council addressed the violence in Syria in a Presidential Statement on 3 August, but a proposed resolution failed on 5 October due to vetoes by Russia and China.

An alternative Russian proposal was recently under discussion in New York. From Germany’s point of view, expressed by Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle in Berlin on 17 January 2012, Russia’s most recent draft does not go far enough. Westerwelle said it was necessary to condemn and sanction the Assad regime’s violence clearly and unequivocally.

United Nations Human Rights Council commission of inquiry

A report by the UN Human Rights Council commission published on 28 November has accused the Syrian regime of gross violations of human rights. The report documented abuses including targeted killings, torture and sexual violence. The commission concluded that Syrian military and security forces had been systematically committing appalling human rights abuses since March 2011.

The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva established the independent commission in August. It was charged with investigating suspected violations of humanitarian international law and identifying those responsible. Although the members of the commission were not allowed into Syria, they were able to interview a total of 223 victims and witnesses and thereby gather firsthand information.

Report of the independent international commission of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Syria, 23.11.11 (PDF, 1 MB)

The European position

Since early May 2011 the European Union has reacted to the ongoing violence in Syria with eleven rounds of sanctions. In addition to a ban on oil imports from Syria, they include a comprehensive arms embargo against Syria, sanctions on Syrian companies and institutions as well as travel restrictions and asset freezes targeting President Assad and members of his family, senior military figures, and other persons with close ties to the regime.

On 23 January 2012, the EU foreign ministers agreed to expand the sanctions on Syria to include 22 more individuals and 8 additional entities. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton is convinced that this decision will increase the pressure on those responsible for unacceptable violence in Syria.

Council conclusions on Syria (PDF, 30 KB)

On 1 December 2011, the EU foreign ministers had tightened their sanctions against the Syrian regime. Trade in Syrian bonds and Syrian Government guarantees are now prohibited in the EU, while loans to Syria are only permitted for humanitarian reasons. A ban was also imposed on exporting technology for the oil and gas sector to Syria.

Information for travellers and German citizens in Syria

Warnings are in place against travelling to Syria. The Federal Foreign Office again emphatically urges all German citizens still in Syria to leave the country.

Last updated 27.01.2012

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