Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Patrick Nulty (Dublin West, Labour)
Question 113: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the ongoing political situation in Syria and in particular the ongoing human rights abuses of Syrian citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7594/12]
Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
I have on a number of occasions stated clearly my grave concerns at the deteriorating situation in Syria and condemned the unacceptable violence and repression which is now estimated to have claimed some 7,000 lives since last March. In my address to the Security Council in New York on 9 February, I described the current situation in Syria as completely intolerable and condemned the appalling suffering of the Syrian people at the hands of the Assad regime. I also discussed the situation with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon and US Deputy Secretary of State Burns during the course of my visit to the United States last week.
Given the serious implications for regional peace and security, it is deeply regrettable that the Security Council has so far been unable to speak with a single voice on Syria, in failing to pass a Resolution on 4 February which otherwise commanded the full support of the Council. The ramifications of this failure have been made painfully clear in the past week as the violence in Syria, and in particular the appalling attacks on the civilian population in cities such as Homs, Bab Amr and Hama, has increased significantly. There is a desperate need for humanitarian access, including medical assistance, to citizens in these areas.
The international community can no longer continue to ignore the daily escalation of bloodshed and repression as the Assad regime seeks to extinguish the legitimate desire of ordinary Syrians for democracy and renewal. There is a clear onus on the international community to protect the people of Syria from further suffering and to promote a speedy resolution of this conflict through peaceful political dialogue. It is clear that President Assad will not begin this process without additional pressure from the international community.
I welcome the continued strong leadership of the Arab League as well as the UN Secretary General and others in the international community who are striving to end the violence in Syria. The UN General Assembly is due to discuss the situation and receive a briefing from High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay on 13 February. The current appalling human rights situation is also likely to be addressed at the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council later this month. Syria will also figure heavily on the agenda for the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 27 February which I will attend and where there is likely to be consideration of how to increase even further the already considerable international pressure on the Assad regime to change course.
Arab League Ministers met in Cairo on 12 February and decided to increase sanctions against Syria, to support Syria’s non-violent opposition, and to appoint former Jordanian Foreign Minister Al-Khatib as Arab League envoy to Syria. The Arab League plan adopted last November and recently considered by the UN Security Council still represents the most credible basis for resolving the current crisis. All sides need to desist from further violence and to allow the main elements of the Arab League plan, including withdrawal of all military forces to barracks, release of all detainees and the stepping down of President Assad to allow the start of a political transition, to be implemented. In relation to the Arab League’s proposal for a joint UN-Arab peace-keeping force to be established, this is a proposal which offers a further opportunity for the UN Security Council to live up to its responsibilities in the area of international peace and security and revisit the current crisis as soon as possible.
Ireland and its EU partners, working with the UN, the Arab League and international partners such as the US and Turkey, are determined to maintain strong and united political pressure on the Syrian regime until it ends the violent repression against its own people and begins a process of transition.