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Tánaiste's statement to the Friends of Syria meeting

Human rights, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Speech, Middle East and North Africa, 2012

I warmly commend Foreign Minister Fabius and the French Government for convening this important gathering.

In responding to the unprecedented crisis which is unfolding in Syria, we can no longer confine ourselves to mere condemnatory statements and expressions of concern. 

There is a clear need now for effective action on the part of the international community to end the violence and to bring the Syrian people’s long nightmare to an end.

The violence – from all sides - must stop.  The appalling use of heavy weaponry and of attack helicopters by the Syrian army to kill its own citizens must end.  There must equally be an end to all repression, to the indiscriminate bombings and to the massacre of innocent men, women and children which we have been witnessing in Houla and Qubair.

Ireland fully supports the efforts of Joint Special Envoy Annan and of the Action Group for Syria to promote an immediate and effective ceasefire and to ensure full implementation of the Annan six-point plan.   The Annan Plan has always offered the vision and the means for ending this bloody conflict.   All that is needed to bring it to an end is political will and compliance with the Plan.

Any ceasefire must herald the launch of a meaningful political transition in Syria.   Last weekend’s Geneva communiqué made clear the kind of transition we wish to see.  There must be a new political beginning in which all segments of Syrian society can participate and in which they can have confidence.   Given the violence and repression which his regime has perpetrated, it is impossible to see how President Assad can have any part to play in Syria’s future.

The UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) must be facilitated in resuming fully the vital mission it is performing.   All sides must respect the Mission’s mandate.   The attacks on the Mission which we have seen in recent weeks, and the many ways in which its work is being obstructed, are utterly unacceptable.   The safety and security of UNSMIS personnel must be rigorously respected, with particular responsibility falling on Syria as host nation.

There has to be accountability for what has occurred in Syria over the past sixteen months. The UN Commission of Inquiry must be fully facilitated in conducting its investigations.  We support all international efforts to gather evidence of what has occurred and we continue to support strongly High Commissioner Pillay’s call for the Security Council to consider ultimate referral of the situation in Syria to the ICC.

Ending the violence and moving to a process of transition will not be easy.  It places a particular onus on all those who are opposed to the continuation of Assad’s rule to rise above their differences.    They must work together in the interests of all the Syrian people to forge a united vision for a democratic Syria to which all their compatriots can rally.

Today’s meeting will assist greatly in sending out a clear signal of the international community’s determination to see the violence ended and to ensure implementation of the Annan Plan.  Nor can there be any doubt that pressure will need to be stepped up significantly on all who continue to ignore their obligations under the Plan.

Ireland has already made clear that we could support the imposition of UN sanctions on all those who block Kofi Annan’s efforts and the will of the international community.   Indeed, a comprehensive UN arms embargo is long overdue.  Existing sanctions also need to be observed and enforced more thoroughly.

We are fast approaching the holy month of Ramadan.  I hope that our efforts today will provide urgently needed impetus in the search for peace and for political renewal.