Syria crying out for an end to the slaughter
An op-ed I wrote, published in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph:
We’ve all been appalled by recent images of the slaughter of more than a 100 men, women and children in Haoula, Syria.
It was a hideous and brutal crime. The time to act against Syria is now.
So I ordered the expulsion of the Syrian charge d’affaires and one other diplomat from Australia.
They were given 72 hours to leave the country. I made it clear that Australia will have no further engagement with the Assad regime until it abides by the UN ceasefire. Damascus must know that Australia will do everything in its power to ensure that those responsible for the ongoing violence in Syria are held to account.
The immediate priorities are to get the military out of civilian areas, to end the use of heavy weapons and to bring an end to this bloodshed.
This conflict is now over a year old. It’s impossible to know the precise numbers, but by some estimates as many as 15,000 people have been killed. We have seen reports of gross violations of human rights including kidnappings, torture and executions.
Syrian forces have deployed tanks and artillery for attacks on urban centres. Thousands of refugees have poured across the borders into Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
The human toll is immense. And it’s growing. Immediate action is required.
We have strongly backed the appointment of Kofi Annan as the Joint Special Envoy on Syria.
We have given our firmest support to his six-point peace plan which seeks an immediate ceasefire and a political solution to this problem.
The Syrian people deserve a better life. And a durable peace.
The sad truth is that the violence in Syria is not a unique event.
As we watch the violence in Syria unfold we recall events like the murder of 8000 men and boys in the fields outside Srebrenica and the slaughter of 800,000 in Rwanda. And the international community pledged to never let this happen again.
In recent years, in places like Libya, we have seen the evolution of a new international norm — the Responsibility to Protect civilians when governments commit acts of mass atrocity. Known as R2P, it also recognises that we have a responsibility to assist states to meet their obligations and to act when they fail in their responsibilities.
Australia strongly supported decisive action by the UN Security Council in 2011 to prevent the impending atrocities in Libya — action that was taken after exhaustive measures had failed to stop the Qaddafi regime.
In recent days, I have been repeatedly asked why the international community is not doing more to help the people of Syria.
I can understand the frustration.
When the original 50 nations met in San Francisco in April 1945, their first objective was to save succeeding generations from war.
The UN Charter — now covering 193 members — commits us to maintain peace, to stop acts of aggression and to settle disputes through international law.
To date the UNSC has adopted two resolutions establishing an UN observer mission to monitor implementation of the six-point plan. At the same time, all countries must do what they can to pressure Syria to implement the Annan plan.
We welcome the Arab League’s efforts in Syria.
Our diplomats in New York, and I’m speaking to them daily, are working around the clock to edge all parties towards Kofi Annan’s peace plan. It’s tough.
The Syrian government is hard line. But, as one adviser in the UN told me, it is the only game in town.