People keep dying in Syria
When the western powers intervened in Libya to save the Libyan people from the merciless violence of the Gaddafi regime, China and Russia opposed. On Syria, the roles remain much the same.
The result is uncontrolled violence of immense proportions spreading from one city to another with the second city of Aleppo now under siege. The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people have been killed in Syria so far, whereas 1.5 million have been displaced internally and several thousand others fled into neighbouring countries.
The death toll in Syria will continue to rise as the violence intensifies further and intervention in Syria – an extreme measure of final resort – is becoming the last remaining option for saving the Syrian people. Hopes for a negotiated solution have been slowly ebbing.
You might have missed the news that, on August, 2, Kofi Annan, the UN and Arab League special envoy to Syria, resigned his post because of the failure of his peace plan, which had been endorsed by the UN Security Council in April.
All the while, the UN General Assembly voted by a staggering 131 votes in favour, 12 against and 31 abstentions in favour of a resolution sponsored by the Arab League condemning “the increasing use by the Syrian authorities of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters, in population centres and the failure to withdraw its troops and the heavy weapons to their barracks…”.
The General Assembly’s resolution has only moral force and it is not binding. It is the UN Security Council that has binding authority and that is the only body that can order the use of force. But, 15 days ago, it failed to adopt a resolution that merely threatened sanctions against Syria if it did not end violence against civilians. Unsurprisingly, the resolution was, yet again, vetoed by China and Russia. As a result, the Syrian regime felt reassured that it could get away with impunity. And the killing spree goes on.
At the time of writing, several districts of Aleppo are under heavy siege by the Syrian army. It is one big scary mess. And fighting is taking place in many other parts of the country too.
The Syrian army controls the main cities and urban centres while the rest of the country remains under rebel control.
On its part, the opposition is becoming bolder and more determined. It still lacks the sophisticated arms to match the government forces. But it is getting its hands on more and more arms that are being smuggled across the country’s porous borders.
The international consensus remains that the fighting must be brought to an end as quickly as possible and that President Bashar Al Assad must leave immediately to open the door for a political settlement. Clearly, he has no place in a lasting political solution.
Some of those who take a more lenient view of Russia’s role say that even Russian patience is not to be taken for granted. They argue that the Russians would prefer Mr Assad to remain in power but if his tactics are going to make a peaceful resolution of the conflict impossible, then he had better go. If that happens, then Mr Assad is as good as gone.
All the neighbouring countries want him out. Except, of course, Iran.
Many believe that this violent civil war may only end with his assassination or with a palace coup that would remove him from power. But until that happens, more and more civilians are dying.
Just last month, the EU further strengthened sanctions against the Syrian regime whereas the European Commission doubled aid for emergency medical care, shelter, food and water to those Syrians who are most affected by the worsening crisis, both inside and outside the country. An additional €20 million of relief aid brought the total EU assistance to €63 million.
The enforcement of the EU arms embargo against Syria is also strengthened as EU countries inspect vessels and aircraft heading to Syria if they suspect that the cargo contains arms or equipment for the regime. This measure is implemented in EU seaports and airports as well as in their territorial waters.
The assets of three entities supporting the regime were frozen and the total number of Syrians slapped with sanctions and travel bans increased.
By the time you read this article, the fate of Aleppo might have been decided. But the fate of Syria would not have been settled. Innocent civilians are paying the heavy price of war when all they wanted was freedom. It is the freedom that you and I take for granted.
President Assad must understand that Syrians too have a right to dignity and freedom. The question is: How many more of his countrymen must die before he does so?
Dr Busuttil is a Nationalist member of the European Parliament.