Gilmore urges Syria sanctions

Sat, Sep 29, 2012, 01:00

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has urged the members of the United Nations Security Council to authorise sanctions targeting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, describing the situation in the country as “as affront to humanity” to which there must be a “clear and unrelenting” response.

Delivering Ireland’s address to the UN General Assembly last night, Mr Gilmore hinted strongly that the response to recent atrocities in the Middle East had been inadequate.

“Syrian children, Syrian women and Syrian men, young and old, are being slaughtered by their own Government,” he said, adding the people of Syria “deserve the full support of the international community for the efforts to bring about an end to this suffering”.

“What is needed above all is a strong Security Council resolution which will authorise targeted sanctions. This must include a comprehensive arms embargo against all those who are responsible for violating the human rights of the Syrian people. That is what the Syrian people want from us, and what they have a right to expect,” he said.

Mr Gilmore insisted there must also be full accountability for human rights abuses, and that it was essential to “make it clear now that atrocities will not go unpunished”.

“That is why Ireland supports the call by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and others for the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court,” he said.

Speaking to a group of Irish reporters ahead of his speech, the Tánaiste said he wanted to deliver a strong, personal message that focused on human rights and cut through the sometimes “obscure” language used by the international community.

“What I want to do is . . . focus on people,” he said. “The work that the UN does, the work of [Ireland’s] foreign policy, is ultimately about people. It’s about the children and women and men who are being slaughtered by the Assad regime in Syria [and] the importance of the UN getting an agreed Security Council position to halt the violence in Syria [and] hold those who are responsible for it to account,” he added.

During his speech, the Tánaiste said “a deep attachment to the safeguarding of human rights” meant that they had remained front and centre in Irish foreign policy since the foundation of the State.

“Ireland’s commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights has been shaped by our own history. As a small island nation which has experienced the impact of colonialism, civil war and conflict, we learned the hard way that human rights can never be taken for granted,” he said.

Mr Gilmore also addressed the issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict, reminding the members of the Assembly that the need for a lasting resolution remained “as urgent as ever”.

“And yet a depressing stalemate persists, with no clear prospect of progress towards a comprehensive settlement,” he said.

“Ireland has said on many occasions that the establishment of a Palestinian state, within borders based on those of 1967, is long overdue. . . . Israel must stop expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which only impedes the prospect of achieving Israel’s stated desire of a viable Palestinian state. The peace and security of the people of Israel, to which they are entitled, gains nothing from denial of the basic rights of the people of Gaza, who are subjected to an unjust and counter-productive blockade,” he told his audience.

The Tánaiste noted the Irish people had maintained their commitment to keeping overseas development aid above 0.5 per cent of gross national product “in the fact of major economic difficulties”.

“We know that peace and security are inextricably linked to economic development . . . and we remain committed to reaching the 0.7 per cent UN target as soon as we possibly can,” he said.

“It is in all our interests, as global citizens, that we stay the course in relation to the Millennium Development Goals, and that we continue to work together for a sustainable and just world, where states operate on the basis of the rights of all people to participate in and contribute to society and inclusive economies. . . . Against this background, the reality of hunger in our world persists. The scandal is that we have the tools to tackle this suffering and this terrible waste of human potential,” Mr Gilmore said.

“The daily challenges to human rights are painfully obvious. Our response must be clear and unrelenting,” he concluded.

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