LETTER: Dialogue will bring peace to Syria
SA has maintained a principled and consistent stance on the situation in Syria, which continues to threaten not only the stability of Syria, but the Middle East as a whole.
Our highest priority is to stop the killings and end the suffering of innocent civilians. We have been calling for an immediate end to the violence and for talks to begin to reach a Syrian-led political transition reflecting the will of the Syrian people.
There is no military solution to the dispute. In line with our commitment to multilateralism and nonviolence, our position on the conflict in Syria is geared towards supporting diplomatic efforts as led by the United Nations (UN) special envoy, Kofi Annan. Mr Annan has put on the table a six-point peace plan which prioritises the immediate end to the fighting as one of the ways through which stability could be restored in Syria.
The recent bomb in Damascus coupled with the many horrific massacres that have taken place over the past months, clearly show that there are two sides to this conflict.
The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed this when it classified the situation as an internal armed conflict, or in layman's terms, a civil war.
We have also noted the statement by the H igh Commissioner for Human Rights that "there are indications that the situation in Syria - at least in certain areas - may amount to a non-international armed conflict, thus entailing obligations on both sides under international law".
Such classifications are a clear indication that the situation has reached the threshold of a civil war in which all parties have responsibilities and obligations under international humanitarian law.
SA is serving in the United Nations (UN) Security Council as a nonpermanent member. In this capacity, we have recently abstained from a vote on a resolution drafted by the UK.
Our decision was based on the fact that the text did not provide for measures against all parties to the conflict in Syria.
Our proposal to balance the text was rejected by the drafters, leaving SA no option but to abstain.
Chapter seven of the UN Charter mandates the UN Security Council to address the conduct of all parties to a conflict equally and to take account of failures of implementation with its decisions "without prejudice to the rights, claims and positions of the parties concerned".
It is therefore essential that the security council address this dire situation in line with the UN Charter.
SA is disappointed at the failure of the UN Security Council to apply pressure on both sides to bring an end to the violence. The outcome of the recent vote in the UN Security Council reflects the deep divisions and narrow interests of the five permanent members of the council.
The primary mandate of the UN Security Council is to maintain international peace and security.
The divisions in response to the situation in Syria highlight a failure on the part of the council to address the appalling situation on the ground in a balanced and mature manner.
SA maintains its call for a Syrian-led negotiated all-inclusive dialogue to establish a political transition that will reflect the will of the Syrian people.
This is also the ultimate aim of the joint special envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States and, very importantly, the only hope for the Syrian people.
The international community must urgently respond to the escalating violence in Syria in a stern and balanced manner, based on the realities on the ground. The opportunity for sustainable peace in the region will come through diplomacy and dialogue that allows for the legitimate aspirations of Syrians to be realised.
Deputy director-general: Department of International Relations
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