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Sun Dec 04 22:26:56 SAST 2016

SA must support calls for protection of ordinary Syrians

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2012-02-09 00:15:17.0

The Times Editorial: The world was told on Tuesday that Syria's deeply unpopular president, Bashar al-Assad, had promised that he would bring an end to the bloodshed that has claimed at least 5400 lives as his forces battle to put down a widespread uprising.

Without even a hint of irony, the emissary sent by Russia to talk to Assad, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said Assad had assured him during their discussions in Damascus that he was anxious to resolve Syria's crisis in accordance with the Arab League plan that had been vetoed by both Moscow and Beijing in the UN Security Council.

No one believed Assad: not the West, not the Gulf Arab states - which followed the US and EU countries in reducing their diplomatic ties with Damascus - and certainly not the tens of thousands of ordinary Syrians who are subjected daily to murderous bombardment by Syria's security forces.

In fact, while he was entertaining the Russian in Damascus, Assad's army continued to use artillery and mortars in an unrelenting assault on the city of Homs, a centre of the uprising and a stronghold of the Free Syrian Army, which is made up of dissident soldiers who, appalled at the state-sanctioned blood-letting, took up arms against Assad. Scores, possibly hundreds, of men, women and children have died in the bombardment of Homs, among them three entire families, gunned down in their homes by Assad's security forces or thugs.

South Africa, which has condemned the violence and called for political dialogue, voted in favour of the UN resolution that called for Assad to hand over power to his vice-president and allow the creation of a unity government.

Though our government will be wary - after getting its fingers burned over Libya - of countenancing measures that smack of regime change, it would do well to support the call by our own Navi Pillay, the UN's top human rights official, for urgent international action to protect civilians in Syria.

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