SA con­demns chem­i­cal war­fare

Peace­ful, po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the seven-year Syr­ian war is what lead­ers call for glob­ally, with US-led air at­tacks be­ing widely de­nounced

The New Age (KwaZulu-Natal) - - News - LERATO DIALE ler­a­tod@the­newage.co.za

THE South African gov­ern­ment has joined a cho­rus of lead­ers glob­ally call­ing for a peace­ful, po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the seven-year war in Syria, while also con­demn­ing the use of chem­i­cal weapons.

This comes fol­low­ing calls by EU for­eign min­is­ters who have come out back­ing ef­forts to stop the use of chem­i­cal weapons while also call­ing for re­newed ef­forts to find a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the con­flict.

South Africa has con­demned US-led air strikes in Syria say­ing the al­leged use of chem­i­cal weapons in Syria does not jus­tify mil­i­tary air-strikes on a sovereign state.

This comes af­ter mil­i­tary air strikes fol­low­ing a sus­pected chem­i­cal weapon at­tack by the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment in the rebel strong­hold of Douma re­cently.

South Africa’s re­ac­tion comes hot on the heels of mis­sile air-strikes in Syria over the week­end by the US, Britain and France ac­cus­ing the state of us­ing chem­i­cal weapons against its own peo­ple.

It is a charge Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad has strongly de­nied in the past.

The Depart­ment of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co­op­er­a­tion (Dirco) has is­sued a state­ment call­ing for a non­mil­i­tary so­lu­tion to the seven-year Syr­ian con­flict.

“From the on­set, when the Syr­ian cri­sis broke out, South Africa has con­sis­tently and con­stantly called for a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of the con­flict. We re­main stead­fast in our prin­ci­pled po­si­tion that the is­sue should be re­solved in the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons and the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, (UNSC)” Dirco said.

South Africa says it con­demns the use of chem­i­cal weapons by any party in Syria.

“We urge all mem­bers of the UNSC to shoul­der their UN Char­ter man­date for the main­te­nance of in­ter­na­tional peace and se­cu­rity and dou­ble all ef­forts to­wards a peace­ful non-mil­i­tary so­lu­tion that re­spects and guar­an­tees the sovereignty, in­de­pen­dence and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of Syria,” Dirco said yes­ter­day.

The mil­i­tary air-strikes drew strong re­ac­tion from Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin a long-time ally of alAs­sad.

The 28 min­is­ters con­demned the mil­i­tary of­fen­sive, backed by Rus­sia, that the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment is wag­ing against rebels and called for an im­me­di­ate cease­fire to al­low hu­man­i­tar­ian aid.

In a state­ment af­ter talks in Lux­em­bourg, EU for­eign min­is­ters un­equiv­o­cally blamed al-As­sad’s regime for the Douma at­tack and gave im­plicit back­ing to Satur­day’s mil­i­tary ac­tion.

The min­is­ters dis­cussed ways to ap­ply pres­sure to get Rus­sia to drag the al-As­sad gov­ern­ment to mean­ing­ful ne­go­ti­a­tions on the coun­try’s fu­ture.

“Whether you like it or not – with­out Rus­sia you won’t be able to solve this con­flict,” Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Heiko Maas said as he ar­rived for yes­ter­day’s talks.

Wash­ing­ton has said it will im­pose new sanc­tions on Rus­sia over the Douma at­tack, tar­get­ing com­pa­nies that sup­plied Syria with equip­ment re­lated to chem­i­cal weapons, but the EU is not yet ready to fol­low suit.

An EU diplo­mat said it would be pos­si­ble to add Rus­sians or Ira­ni­ans to the Syr­ian sanc­tions list but the idea is not yet be­ing dis­cussed at the level of for­eign min­is­ters.

Some Euro­pean gov­ern­ments are wary of pro­vok­ing an an­gry re­sponse from Rus­sia, which among other things re­mains a key sup­plier of gas to the EU.

Next week, the EU hosts a ma­jor con­fer­ence in Brus­sels on the fu­ture of Syria aimed at gath­er­ing fi­nan­cial pledges for hu­man­i­tar­ian aid and boost­ing a floun­der­ing UN-led peace process.

The war has al­ready claimed the lives of at least 350 000 peo­ple. – with AFP

PIC­TURE: AFP

NO WAR: A man ar­gues with anti-war pro­test­ers as they march to protest the US, UK and French strikes on Syria early Satur­day.

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