August 21, 2012
SVG abstains from UN vote

St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) was one of 31 nations of the United Nations General Assembly to abstain from voting on a U.N.{{more}}resolution demanding that all parties in Syria stop all forms of violence.

The resolution, penned by Saudi Arabia and supported by other Arab nations, was adopted on August 3 by 133 votes to 12, with 31 abstentions.

It condemned the Syrian authorities’ increasing use of heavy weapons, as well as the continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Camillo Gonsalves, this country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said that although there was some support for many of the key pillars contained in the resolution, SVG decided to abstain from voting.

“St Vincent and the Grenadines agonized long and hard over the decision to abstain and we regret that an opportunity was missed today for the General Assembly to speak with one voice on this conflict,” Gonsalves said in his address to the General Assembly.

“Even in light of the welcomed changes made to the text, our failure to make the extra effort to craft a resolution that could enjoy near unanimous support is even more regrettable in the wake of statements made by outgoing special envoy Kofi Annan, who made it clear that the international community must be balanced in its pronouncements and united in its approach if we are to save Syria from further bloodshed,” he continued.

In his presentation, Gonsalves said the resolution contained many positive elements including the concern for the civilian victims, particularly the innocent women and children that were dying.

He added that there was concern about the influx of Syrian refugees into nearby states and this country echoes the resolution’s expression of regret for the thousands of deaths.

“St Vincent and the Grenadines wholeheartedly endorses the reaffirmation of support for the six point plan delineated by outgoing special envoy Kofi Annan and the commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said.

He further explained that this country condemned any and all acts of abuse of people’s human rights, and reiterated the resolution’s call for political dialogue and a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

“However, other aspects give us pause and cause us to question whether our laudable desire to speak and act on this matter has caused us to overlook many of the undisputable facts on the ground,” he said.

“Primarily we are concerned about the obvious omissions from this resolution that creates not only a lack of balance, but have far more troubling implications that our silence amounts to consent, or endorsement of certain actions and actors.”

It was a fact that elements of the opposition forces have attempted to assassinate members of the Syrian government, either individually or with the use of crude bombs and, according to Gonsalves, the “international community cannot catalogue the violations of the Syrian authorities while turning a blind eye to the despicable terrorism.”

There was also the presence of Al Qaeda and other extremist elements in Syria and Gonsalves said that the international community needed to condemn this element of the conflict.

Rather than condemning those barbaric elements, Gonsalves maintained that the resolution encouraged cohesion among all elements of the Syrian opposition, many of whom the international community knew nothing about.

“There are many principled and patriotic Syrians who seek to staunchly oppose the government through peaceful and legitimate means,” Gonsalves explained.

He added that it was therefore irresponsible for these groups of people to be asked to find common cause with those extremists and terrorists.

“The resolution had been brought under agenda item number 34, entitled ‘Prevention of Armed Conflict’, and as such we feel it imperative for this resolution to acknowledge the role played by many states to exacerbate and intensify armed conflict in Syria through the provision of arms and ammunition to all sides in the war,” the Vincentian diplomat said.

He further stated that the international community cannot call for the prevention of armed conflict without confronting those who arm the combatants, if they were serious about ending the conflict.

There were other areas of concern, Gonsalves said.

“The responsibility to protect is a concept whose contours and full implications have neither been defined nor agreed upon by the UN,” he said, adding that its inclusion in the resolution was divisive at a time when unity should be the objective.

He said that the Vincentian contingent also noted the resolution’s call for the establishment of a democratic, pluralistic, political system where all citizens were equal.

“St Vincent and the Grenadines proudly possesses a political system which we work tirelessly to improve and consolidate. As such we have considered sympathy for the sentiments captured by such a call; however, we are unclear as to whether the general assembly has the legal, moral or historical authority to externally impose any political system upon the citizens of another state,” Gonsalves said.

He, however, noted that this country’s abstention should not be mistaken for support for the Syrian authorities or an endorsement of the opposition’s methods.

“Instead it is a call for balance, compromise and unity…as such St Vincent and the Grenadines reiterates its support for a peaceful solution to the war that is not motivated by geo-political or strategic interests, but driven instead by the honest desire to end the catastrophic human tragedy and the need to honour the memory of the tens of thousands of Syrians who have needlessly died in this conflict,” he said. (DD)