22 January 2014
South African International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is in Switzerland for a peace conference which hopes to break the stalemate in the three-year Syrian civil war.
Nkoana-Mashabane was invited by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to attend the high-level international meeting, which starts in Montreux on Wednesday.
The meeting will be attended by dozens of countries that had agreed to the 2012 Geneva Communique, which calls for an end to fighting and the installation of a transitional government with full executive powers.
International Relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela said on Wednesday that South Africa believes there can be no military solution to the conflict in Syria, and sees the conference as a step in the right direction towards bringing an end to the suffering of the Syrian people.
Monyela said South Africa believed that democracy was an unassailable right of the Syrian people.
“The South African government is thus committed to encouraging all parties involved in the current conflict in Syria to engage in a process of all-inclusive national dialogue, free of any form of violence, intimidation or outside interference aimed at government change, in order to satisfy the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.”
The conference participants will seek to make arrangements for humanitarian aid to flow into that country, where over 100 000 people have been killed and more than eight-million others driven from their homes since the conflict erupted between the government and various groups seeking the ousting of President Bashar al-Assad.
Monyela said South Africa was deeply disappointed by the fact that the Syrian conflict had been raging for nearly three years, with devastating humanitarian consequences.
“The situation in Syria is evolving into one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent times, with severe political and economic consequences for the entire region.”
The Montreux meeting, which is designed to give international support to the efforts to resolve the deadly conflict that has torn Syria apart, will be followed by talks in Geneva – scheduled for Friday – between the two Syrian delegations and UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, who is organising the peace conference.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has rescinded his invitation to Iran to participate in the Syrian peace conference, his spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, told reporters on Monday.
Nesirky said Ban was “dismayed [and] deeply disappointed” after Iran released public statements conflicting with what was reportedly discussed in private, resulting in their invitation to participate being withdrawn.
Iran, whose invitation was seen as controversial due to that country’s backing of al-Assad, refused to support a process to form a transitional government – one of the stated goals of the conference, as laid out in the Geneva Communique.