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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2012

General Assembly 124th Plenary Meeting: Concerning draft resolution (A/66/L.57) “The situation in the Syrian Arab Republic”

Statement by HE Jim McLay, Permanent Representative, New Zealand Permanent Mission to the United Nations, 3 August 2012

Thank you Mr President -

In early June, the Secretary General told this General Assembly that Syria was at a “critical moment”, and called on us to act with unity and with a collective will. Yet, here we are, two months later: the violence escalates; the death toll continues to rise; and many parts of Syria lie in ruins.  The Syrian government has failed to honour its agreed commitments under the Six-Point Plan, leaving its sponsor, Kofi Annan frustrated and, ultimately, resigned – citing among other things, the “lack of clear unity in the Security Council”.  We join China, Costa Rica and those others who have expressed regret at his resignation.

Mr President –

As the Secretary-General has more recently pointed out, “Syrian Government officials have repeatedly said they would honour [their] commitments under that plan … [but we] are still waiting for them to act”.  Indeed, New Zealand waits for all sides to act.  But, unquestionably it’s the Syrian Government that grows seemingly more scornful of international efforts to resolve this crisis, with its continued use of heavy weapons, and now the aerial bombardment of Aleppo.  Those government forces have an overwhelming advantage of military hardware and firepower which, while non-government forces have now acquired some such weaponry, by supply, capture or defection, still explains any perceived asymmetry in this resolution.

The Security Council has been blocked from acting with firm resolve, and Member States who seek a rapid and peaceful end to this crisis are left wondering, “What else can be done?”

I hope, Mr President, we won’t have to convene again, in another two months, only to be told that for ordinary Syrians, the situation has deteriorated even further, while the world stands by unable to act.  To use the Secretary-General’s words from this morning, “We must not fail that test”.

Against that awful background, we applaud regional efforts but to resolve the crisis; notably, this initiative by some Arab states.

Mr President –

This crisis is sorely testing our collective ability to work for peace.  In the absence of action under Chapter VII of the Charter, and as you, Mr President have rightly drawn attention to the Security Council being deadlocked, this General Assembly has, as you said, “a role to play”.  And this Resolution is the next best option – building as it does, on the loud and now-constant demands of the international community for an end to the violence in Syria.

Mr President –

We are appalled at the Syrian government’s threatened use of chemical weapons.  It is essential that the international community presents a strong and united resolve against the use of such weapons; indeed, we remind all parties – government and opposition – of all of their obligations under international humanitarian law for the protection of civilians in non-international armed conflict.  We do not turn a blind eye to humanitarian crimes, by whomsoever they are committed.

We say, quite clearly: Those responsible for crimes against humanity, whichever side they may be, cannot be part of Syria’s future.  New Zealand remains committed to the fight against impunity for such violations; and we call on all sides to cooperate with the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

Mr President –

As the violence escalates, so too does the humanitarian crisis.

As we here seek a political solution, we must always be mindful of the suffering of internally displaced persons and refugees, and of the enormous burden their plight imposes on surrounding countries – to whom we, the United Nations, owe a debt of gratitude.

This is, Mr President, a deeply unsettling time for the whole of the Middle East.  We all understand the historic importance, the cultural depth, of Syria; but all of us – not least, those whose veto has deadlocked the Security Council – should pay heed to the Secretary-General’s warning that “A sectarian civil war [in Syria] would … gravely imperil Syria’s neighbours”.

And all that, Mr President, all that because one man and the clique that surrounds him have lost all touch with reality, have lost all legitimacy, and don’t know when enough is enough.

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:49 NZDT