Tuesday, 29 November 2016
How Can You Heartbreak A Stranger?
"Up until now the Security Council has been paralysed because of Russian and Chinese vetoes. but the draft resolution that the Security Council put forward last month was vetoed by Russia alone. If we continue to rely on the Security Council as a scapegoat for not engaging in any action, there will be no action on Syria. What we are advocating for is the pursuit and the convening of an emergency special session of the United Nations General Assembly. This is an alternative to overcome the abuse of vetoes in the Security Council, when there is a situation that threatens international peace and security, as Syria obviously does. The Canadian government is involved in calling for an emergency special session. It has submitted a letter to the President of the General Assembly last month, signed by over 70 countries including the UK, calling on the President of the General Assembly to convene an emergency special session on Syria; and should this happen, the General Assembly would be able to recommend measures, including the use of force, for states to take with respect to Syria.
The Syrian heartbreak is twofold. The first is obviously the family, friends, cities, neighbourhoods, communities, memories, that you've left behind, and the people you know who continue to face starvation by Assad, continue to face bombardment by Assad and Russia. So that's the first heartbreak that Syrians face. The second heartbreak is just watching all of this, and realising that the international community is doing absolutely nothing. It could be as simple as dropping humanitarian aid on to besieged areas, and if the international community isn't even willing to do that, then us Syrians have faced a very big heartbreak in this respect."
"We've spoken to people today, and they describe the situation and I quote as "Doomsday" in East Aleppo. And of course the key point is it's not only East Aleppo that there is a pounding of an incessant kind. In East Damascus, in the south-west of the country, there are people with that worry as well, and it gives the lie to the argument that this is being done to target ISIS or Jabhat al-Nusra. In Eastern Damascus it's rebel groups that do not fall into those two categories. So I think you are right to say there is a very high order of concern. I'm afraid that recommendations from the General Assembly don't carry the same weight or the same action as a decision of the Security Council can, and it's the Security Council that can invoke force and deploy UN force and of course provide legal cover for other countries to do their own actions. I think it's very important that it's political division that has neutered efforts to bring relief to the people of Syria, and inside Eastern Aleppo. Since the 13th of November, they've had no food aid at all.
The history of air drops is far from simple. The dangers are real for the people on the ground, never mind the people flying there. Certainly they should be on the table, and if Hilary Benn has made the point that we're in last resort situation, he's absolutely right to do so. Secondly, it's vital that we don't lose sight of the core demand, which is a cessation of hostilities and a freeze in the fighting, because until that happens, there will be no space at all for the political movement necessary. One other point, I want to know who ordered the bombing of the IRC medical facilities this year. Our own organisation has had eight hospitals bombed this year. Accountability for war crimes, and that's what we're talking about, bombings of humanitarian centres marked on maps, that then get bombed, I want to know as the CEO of the International Rescue Committee who is ordering those things. It's the breakdown not just of mechanisms for action in the Security Council that's of concern, it's also the breakdown of any sense of accountability for one of the most heinous crimes we've seen this century.
I think that the consequences of the 2003 decision [to go to war in Iraq] are clear for all to see, and in various aspects have been disastrous. But I think it's also very important to say that the uprising in Deraa in 2011 was a homegrown revolt against autocratic rule. And it's very important that in the West there is proper recognition of decisions that are made in the West. I was a Schools Minister in 2003, and I say very clearly about the mistakes that were made in 2003, and the mistakes, frankly, that were made subsequently in the administration of the peace, never mind the waging of the war, after 2003. It's also important to say that history is made by Arabs in the Middle East too, and the people of Aleppo who made peaceful protests in 2011, the people of Deraa where the civil war started, were protesting and demanding accountable government. And I think it's very important not to forget that the conflict that's happening in Syria is not just a sectarian one between different confessional denominations in the country. It's also part of a demand for accountable and legitimate government, never mind the wider geopolitical and intra-regional conflagration that has been taking place since then."