South African response to the use of chemical weapons in Damascus

29 August 2013
South Africa is alarmed at the latest escalation in the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic and condemns the use of chemical weapons. South Africa extends its heartfelt condolences to the families of the people who lost their lives in the chemical weapons attack. The use of these weapons in Syria is of serious concern and is wholly unacceptable by any standard. No cause could ever justify the use of weapons of mass destruction. South Africa believes that the United Nations weapons inspectors should be allowed the time to complete their investigation and announce findings on the use of chemical weapons whilst no effort should be spared to convene the proposed Geneva II Peace Conference as soon as possible.
South Africa remains deeply concerned about the continuing violence and rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and has persistently called on all the parties to the conflict, both domestic and foreign, to take all necessary steps to end the violence and to respect and protect the rights of the Syrian population. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, South Africa has condemned all human rights abuses; in particular violations of the rights of vulnerable groups, such as women and children. All the parties have the responsibility to protect and preserve human rights.
South Africa is concerned by the dangerous rhetoric pointing to the possibility of a military intervention. South Africa does not believe that bombing the already suffering people and crumbling infrastructure of Syria, will contribute to a sustainable solution. The outcome of such an action is unpredictable and will only worsen the conflict. It will ultimately be the people of Syria who pay the price, whilst those participating in the military intervention will return to safety far away from the crisis.
Only the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) can mandate the use of military force in conflict situations only if other measures are deemed insufficient in bringing about a solution. Any attack on Syria without UNSC authorization would constitute a grave violation of international law that would severely undermine international order.
The South African Government is committed to encouraging all parties involved in the current conflict in Syria to engage in a process of all-inclusive national dialogue, free of any form of violence, intimidation or outside interference aimed at regime change, in order to satisfy the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.
South Africa believes it is essential that a political path be supported by a united, cohesive international effort towards a Syrian-led negotiated political transition aimed at establishing a democratic pluralistic society in which minorities are protected. We therefore call on the members of the UN Security Council to unite in purpose in moving the parties to a negotiated settlement.