SA condemns chemical weapons in Syria


22 March 2013

South Africa has condemned the reported use of chemical weapons in the civil war in Syria earlier this week.

“The alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria is of serious concern and would introduce an extremely dangerous element into the conflict, which is wholly unacceptable by any standard,” International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said in a statement on Thursday.

It was reported earlier this week that a missile containing a chemical substance was fired into a village in Allepo province, killing 31 people and injuring 100.

Ebrahim said South Africa was “gravely concerned” about the serious escalation of the conflict in Syria. “We have consistently called on all the parties to the conflict to stop the violence as well as protect the rights of the Syrian population.”

He said that since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, South Africa had condemned the abuse of human rights, in particular violations of the rights of vulnerable groups such as women and children.

Weapons of mass destruction were particularly heinous because they targeted innocent civilians. All the parties to the current conflict had a responsibility to protect and preserve human rights.

“South Africa reaffirms its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria. There is no military solution to the conflict,” Ebrahim said.

“The only way to stop the further destruction of Syrian society is for the parties to come together in dialogue without delay.”

He said any political transition needed to reflect the will of the Syrian people, adding that South Africa rejected any calls for forced regime change and outside military interference, or any action not in line with the Charter of the United Nations.

“South Africa calls for restraint on the part of all parties to the conflict, and again emphasises the need for an immediate political settlement as expressed by the Geneva Joint Communique.”