Security Council: Explanation of Vote on Syria draft resolution

Jul 19, 2012

(Explanation of Vote as delivered by Ambassador Wittig in the Security Council after a vote on the Syria draft resolution)

Mr. President,

When the people of Syria peacefully took to the streets more than a year ago, their legitimate demands for freedom and participation were met with deadly force.

Instead of initiating meaningful political dialogue, the regime of President Assad responded with increased repression.

From the start, we have warned against this spiral of violence. We had strong concerns about the mayhem it might bring to the whole region. We called on President Assad to embark on a process of credible political reform.

The Arab League – with overwhelming support of the international community – laid out a plan for a peaceful political process. But President Assad did not listen.

Together with our partners, we sought action by the Security Council to stop violence and human rights abuses – at a time when Council action could have prevented worse from happening.

It is well known to all why these attempts were rendered futile. 

Today, more than 15.000 deaths later, Damascus is at war with the Syrian people.
What started as peaceful protest movement has in parts evolved into armed opposition. This too could have been avoided.

But with every day that the Assad regime escalated its violent repression, with every new shelling, with every new massaker, it became more difficult for those Syrian voices that promoted peaceful change to convince those who had lost hope in a political solution.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross the situation in Syria is now a civil war. Let me be clear: The responsibility for this lies fully with President Assad and his regime.

Mr. President,

Assad has failed to protect the Syrian people. He has broken all comitments made first to his people, then to the Arab League, and later to Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan.

Mr. Annan personally told President Assad that he had to send bold signals. But what Assad instead sent were tanks, mortars and helicopter gunships.

Mr. President,

This Council has the responsibiliy to help the Syrian people to find a peaceful solution.

Kofi Annan’s six-point plan, endorsed by this Council, was meant to deescalate the crisis, to bring down the level of violence and to start a meaningful political process. As a first step, the Syrian government had to stop the use of heavy weapons, and withdraw both heavy weapons and troops from population centers. Remember, it was Assad himself who made this committment.

We supported these decisions and we supported sending observers to Syria. Despite severe risks and reservations.

But the hopes that we had placed in these resolutions were soon shattered.

As Kofi Annnan himself has said: None of the elements of the six point plan were implemented. Instead of silencing the heavy weapons, the Assad regime unleashed its tanks and attack helicopters. Assad used the heavy weapons he plegded to not use anymore.

This Council cannot continue business-as-usual.  The Joint Envoy, Mr. Kofi Annan, himself was clear in what he expects from Damascus and what he expects from the Security Council:

First: Mr. Annan told President Assad to immediately stop to use of heavy weapons in populated areas.

Second, Mr. Annan has repeatedly stressed that the responsibility to act first lies with Damascus.

And third, Mr. Annan has repeatedly called on this Council to insist on the implementation of its decisisons and send a strong signal that there will be consequences for non-complicance.

Mr. President,

Our resolution would have done what Mr. Annan himself has asked us to do.

By endorsing the Annan Plan and the Geneva Communique under Chapter VII, we would would have obliged both sides – and I repeat: both sides - to immediately implement these provisions.

The resolution would have threatened sanctions against Damascus to stop the indiscriminate shelling of populated areas. These shellings violate international humanitarian law, they violate Security Council resolutions and they hinder any chance for a political process.

To end the shelling would have finally opened up the space for the observer mission to again play a meaningful role.

In conclusion,

Let me make this point clear: our goal was to achieve unity in this Council. We have conducted our negotiations in this spirit. This spirit was not reciprocated by all Council members.

The resolution would not have set the stage for military intervention, as some have falsely claimed. 

The resolution would not have undermined Joint Envoy Annan and the Observer mission. Quite the contray: It would have supported Annan and the observers on the ground.

And the resolution would not have been the “silver bullet” to bring about peace in Syria, but it would have provided a realistic chance – maybe the last chance – to finally break the vicious cycle of violence.

Mr. President,

Today was an opportunity lost. History will show us the price that the people in Syria and beyond will have to pay.

As for my delegation, I can say that, together with our partners, we have tried our utmost. This, at least, was and is our moral responsibility.

Mr President,

While the days of President Assad are numbered, people in Syria are going through times of unspeakable hardship. I want to assure the Syrian people: Germany will continue to support all those who cherish peace, freedom and democracy.

One day there will be a new Syria. We call on all those within the Syrian regime to seriously consider their future options, because one thing is certain: there will be change.

I thank you.

© GermanyUN