FM calls for ‘safe havens’ to protect Syrian civilians
October 13 2016 11:58 PM
HE the Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani participating in the fifth joint ministerial meeting for strategic dialogue between GCC and Turkey, which took place yesterday at the GCC general secretariat in Riyadh.


HE Foreign Minister of Qatar Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani called on Security Council members to set aside their geopolitical calculations and “honour” their commitment to protect the lives of the Syrian people.
In an Op-Ed that he authored for US newspaper New York Times under the headline “How the UN Can Save Aleppo,” Sheikh Mohamed urged the Security Council to immediately create “safe havens” in northern and southern Syria and enforce a no-fly zone in order to protect the defenceless population of the country, warning of a repeat of the international community’s failures in Rwanda and Bosnia.
The foreign minister argued that in case the Security Council failed to agree on such basic actions, the United Nations General Assembly should demand the implementation of Resolution 377A, also known as the ‘Uniting for Peace’ resolution and the ‘Acheson Plan,’ which provides a means of “circumventing a deadlocked Security Council and enabling the United Nations to enact collective resistance to aggression.”
HE Sheikh Mohamed said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has not acted alone and that he had support from foreign powers that share responsibility with him for death and destruction.
“But he has also had enablers, those who have stood aside and done nothing as the slaughter has continued. Red lines have been drawn, and Mr Assad has crossed them without consequence. Ceasefires have been declared, and regime forces have violated them with impunity,” the Qatari foreign minister said.
He warned that “time is not on our side,” adding that while world leaders hesitate, “thousands more could die in Aleppo. The international community, bearing the failures in Rwanda and Bosnia on its conscience, cannot afford to fail again.”
“Earlier this month,” the minister said, “a health centre in Aleppo, Syria, run by Qatar Red Crescent was struck by bombs dropped from a helicopter. Two patients were killed, eight others were wounded and half the facility was destroyed. Qatar was forced to close the centre. Dr Hashem Darwish, the head of the health programme at the Qatar Red Crescent’s mission in Turkey, called the attack a war crime.”
“This was the very phrase the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, used a few days earlier to describe the escalating violence deployed by the Syrian government and its allies. ‘Those using ever more destructive weapons know exactly what they are doing,’ said Mr Ban. ‘They know they are committing war crimes’,” HE Sheikh Mohamed said.
He said that five years after Assad’s shockingly brutal response to the peaceful protests of his people, the tally of war crimes in Syria is growing.
“About half a million people have died, and millions more have fled their homes and their country to escape the barrel bombs and chlorine gas that Mr Assad has unleashed on his own citizens. The regime’s ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity have only intensified in their viciousness and cruelty as the war has dragged on,” he said.
“The United Nations Security Council has also failed, despite multiple resolutions, to use all means at its disposal to stop the atrocities being committed against the Syrian people. The principle of the Responsibility to Protect, endorsed by all member states of the United Nations in 2005 to prevent war crimes and crimes against humanity, should have formed the basis for a United Nations-led intervention in Syria.
“During the past five years, however, enforcement of the Responsibility to Protect has been blocked repeatedly by certain members of the Security Council for political reasons. The deadlock, in turn, has allowed the Syrian regime to continue to massacre its citizens with impunity. The humanitarian disaster now being inflicted on Aleppo illustrates the consequences of the United Nations’ failure.
“Syria is not the only place where the Security Council has selectively ducked its responsibility to protect innocent civilians and prevent war crimes in the Middle East. In Gaza in 2014, it failed to restrain Israeli aggression against the civilian population: Of 2,251 Palestinians killed, 1,462 were civilians, including 551 children and 299 women.
“The lack of impartiality and accountability in the work of the Security Council has disillusioned many in the Middle East who seek peace and justice.
In the absence of international leadership, some governments in the region have turned to foreign powers for support, perpetuating the bloodshed,” HE Sheikh Mohamed added.
He said that there remain alternatives in light of the current stat us, drawing examples from Rwanda and Bosnia.
“After the United Nations failed to intervene to prevent genocides in the 1990s in Rwanda and at Srebrenica (during the Bosnian war), Nato took action to stop an imminent massacre in Kosovo. Justifying the Nato action, President Bill Clinton said, ‘If the world community has the power to stop it, we ought to stop genocide and ethnic cleansing.’”
“When innocent civilians are being mercilessly massacred whether they are Christians, Tutsis, Serbs or Muslims it is the responsibility of the international community to take collective action.  Six years after Kosovo, the United Nations endorsed this resolve with the Responsibility to Protect. Now it’s time to protect the innocent in Syria.
“There are those who will argue that it would be a mistake to intervene in another conflict in the Middle East, citing the American-led occupation of Iraq from 2003. But the invasion of Iraq was a war of choice. There is no choice in Syria: Saving civilians from being slaughtered by the Assad regime is a moral responsibility.
“The world has the power to stop the bloodshed in Syria. Under the auspices of the Responsibility to Protect and Chapter VII of its charter, the United Nations has the authority to take action. Qatar calls on the members of the Security Council to set aside their geopolitical calculations and honor their commitment to protect the lives of the defenseless in Syria,” HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani concluded his article.

GCC-Turkey strategic dialogue meeting
HE the Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani participated in the fifth joint ministerial meeting for strategic dialogue between GCC and Turkey, which took place yesterday at the GCC general secretariat in Riyadh. The meeting discussed current political issues, security and political developments in the region and international efforts to combat terrorism.
It stressed the depth of GCC ties with Turkey and reviewed means of boosting relations between the two sides in implementation of the mutual working plan between them.
The meeting also reiterated the importance of achieving the legitimate ambitions of the Arab peoples so as to achieve stability, prosperity and security, and raise the standard of living.

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