ISSN 2330-717X

South Africa Concerned Over UNSC ‘Divide’

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South Africa has expressed concern over the growing divide between permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said today.

Amid a lack of consensus in hotspot areas such as Syria, South Africa has warned that these divisions were rendering the council ineffective.

“These divisions and the inability of the security council to address the realities of the appalling situation on the ground in a balanced and mature manner, is a failure by security council to execute its primary mandate, namely the maintenance of international peace and security,” Ebrahim said at a media briefing in Pretoria on Friday.

He said South Africa was disappointed in that because of these divisions between members, the council has been prevented from executing its duties.

The deputy minister suggested that the differences should be addressed in a spirit of “compromise, mutual respect and with the council’s greater responsibility in mind”.

Despite the appeals for united and concerted action to help end the escalating violence in Syria, the UNSC on Thursday failed to adopt a resolution that would have threatened sanctions on Damascus.

Eleven of the 15 nations on the Council voted for the resolution, while Russia and China voted against. As permanent members of the UNSC, they have veto power and thus killed the resolution. South Africa and Pakistan abstained from voting.

This is the third time Russia and China have used their veto power to block the council’s resolution aimed at putting pressure on Syria.

Thursday’s outcome, Ebrahim said reflects “deep divisions and narrow interests” of the five permanent members of the UNSC.

Explaining why South Africa abstained, Ebrahim said that their problem with the resolution voted on yesterday was not the issue of sanctions on the government per se. Rather, they failed to see how the text tabled would end the violence and contribute to the implementation of the 6 point plan by Joint Special Envoy for the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan.

On Friday, Ebrahim said instead the text was unbalanced and threatened sanctions on the government without realistically being able to take any action against the opposition, who would be permitted to defy the 6 point plan without any consequences.

“Our view is that a one-sided resolution would only make the situation on the ground worse, pushing the government to further pressure the military option and emboldening the opposition to continue to reject talks,” articulated Ebrahim.

He said in a complex situation and divided societies like Syria there can be no military solution. “We saw this clearly with Iraq,” he said.

The resolution had sought to put UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows the UNSC to authorise actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention.

The resolution, proposed by the US, Britain, France and Germany would have extended the UN observer mission known as UNSMIS in Syria for 45 days.

The mandate of the 300-man mission expires today but 15 members of the UNSC will still negotiate another resolution on the fate of the mission later this afternoon.

If the council cannot agree to extend the mandate, the mission would have to close.

However, if it is renewed, the UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon has recommended shifting the emphasis of the work of the UN armed mission to civilian staff focusing on a political solution and issues including human rights.

The UNSMIS is already delayed as they suspended most of its monitoring activity in June due to increased violence.

Although South Africa is concerned about the safety of the observers, Ebrahim said South Africa believed that the UNSMIS played a critical role in supporting Annan.

The deputy minister also hoped that the council would be able to rise above its deep divisions and adopt the extension unanimously.

“The withdrawal of the UNSMIS will only result in the conflict on the ground spiralling into an all-out war, which will have a severe impact on the stability of the entire region. South Africa is concerned about such prospects.”

The UN estimates that more than 10 000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria while thousands have been displaced since the uprising against the president began some 16 months ago.

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