Stepping up pressure on Syria further
Following massacres of civilians in Houla in late May and more recently in Qubair United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki moon and Special Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan urged the international community to stand together and warned of the danger of a civil war in Syria. Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York, they also called upon the UN Security Council to take swift action.
Enlarge image Kofi Annan and Ban Ki moon called upon the UN Security Council to take swift action (© picture-alliance/ Photoshot) Foreign Minister Westerwelle, visiting Beirut, expressed his agreement with Ban and Annan: "The Annan peace plan must remain the basis for a peaceful solution. But our efforts so far have not been enough." Westerwelle sharply condemned the massacres in Houla and Qubair. He said "new, stronger political and diplomatic measures" were necessary now, and added that the Security Council again bore a responsibility in this regard.
Germany is seeking a political solution to the conflict in Syria. This is a matter of non military measures under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations. "First and foremost, this means that all member states impose binding sanctions against the Assad regime for further violations of the Annan plan," Westerwelle went on to say. The international community, he added, needed to prevent the fire spreading to affect the entire region.
Moscow’s role is especially significant; to date, Russia has been unwilling to support a Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Syria. The German Foreign Minister affirmed, however, that Germany intended to keep working to convince Russia to take stronger action against the regime in Damascus. He issued the following statement in Beirut:
"The Government in Moscow should now take yesterday’s [7 June] clear plea by Kofi Annan, Ban Ki moon and Arab League Secretary General Nabil El Araby as an occasion to stop backing the Assad regime."
No return to business as usual
Enlarge image Westerwelle in Istanbul attending the meeting of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People (© Thomas Koehler/ photothek.net) On 27 May, the United Nations Security Council condemned Syrian security forces’ violent actions in Houla, where more than a hundred civilians, including many children, were killed in attacks. On 1 June, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva issued a resolution calling for an immediate end to acts of violence by the Syrian regime, and demanding that those responsible for grave human rights violations be brought to justice. An independent Commission of Inquiry established by the Human Rights Council has been charged with investigating the events in Houla.
Foreign Minister Westerwelle said, "By resolving to investigate the recent atrocities in Syria, the Human Rights Council has sent the unmistakeable message that whoever commits crimes such as those in Houla will be held accountable to the international community."
On 6 June, the Minister took part in a meeting of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People in Istanbul. Here too, the matter at hand was to agree on the international community’s possibilities for further action. During Westerwelle’s subsequent visit to Lebanon, too, his consultations with political leaders there focused on the situation in Syria. Minister Westerwelle underscored that everything possible had to be done to prevent the conflict from spreading to Lebanon.
Long-term support for the Syrian people
Enlarge image Syrian refugee in Jordan (© picture-alliance/ dpa) The international community is doing more than just imposing sanctions. It also intends to assist the Syrian people through economic recovery and development cooperation after the end of the conflict and of the Assad regime. Germany initiated a working group on these issues within the Group of Friends of the Syrian People; the working group met for the first time in Abu Dhabi on 24 May 2012. The head of the working group’s newly established Secretariat in Berlin has now begun work. The working group sets its sights on Syria’s future so that the country will succeed at a fresh start after the violence ends – not only politically, but also economically. For the short term, Germany is providing humanitarian assistance to Syrians in need. The German Government recently increased its funding by 2.1 million euros for a total of 7.9 million euros, intended primarily to aid the country’s ever-growing population of internally displaced persons.
"Everything possible must be done to alleviate the plight of those suffering from the escalating violence Assad has unleashed. The Syrian regime remains duty-bound to provide immediate, comprehensive and unrestricted humanitarian access to the population there."