Give UN a chance on Syria – Ebrahim

United Nations inspectors dispatched to Syria must be given the opportunity to conclude their assessment on the use of chemical weapons, Deputy International Relations Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said.

A military intervention in the strife-torn nation would only aggravate the humanitarian situation, Ebrahim told reporters in Pretoria today.

“The way forward is not to start bombing Syria, because [by doing that] you are not solving the problem but actually increasing it,” he said.

“That would be extending the problem to the whole region. If you bomb Syria, you don’t know how other parties are going to react, the Hezbollah etc.
We should work for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.”

Asked what South Africa’s stance would be, if evidence proved the regime of President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons, Ebrahim said the intensity of retribution should be decided by the UN.

“It [the punishment] has to be done in accordance with international law and it has to be approved by the UN Security Council. You have got to get the authorisation of the security council, that is a fundamental principle of international law.

“It’s a serious violation of international law if bombing takes place outside the security council. There is growing consensus building up in the international community [calling for] a peaceful resolution to this conflict, even among the American and the French,” said Ebrahim.

Regarding Kenya’s decision to pull out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) ahead of the trial of key leaders of the Kenyan government, Ebrahim said South Africa supported the trials being held domestically.

“South Africa’s position supports the AU (African Union) position which says if there is domestic capabilities to try them domestically, then that should be the course of action,” he said.

“The AU decided that Kenya has primary jurisdiction on the case. Our position will be informed by the approach adopted by the Kenyan authorities and the accused.”

Kenyan lawmakers yesterday backed a motion to pull out of the ICC, snubbing the Hague-based tribunal ahead of the trial of Vice President William Ruto scheduled for next week.

Parliament must now vote on a bill within 30 days to formalise steps for the actual withdrawal.

On Tuesday, the ICC trial of Ruto opens on three counts of crimes against humanity. He is accused of having organised 2007/08 post-election unrest which killed at least 1 100 people and forced more than 600 000 people to flee their homes.

Ruto’s case comes roughly two months before President Uhuru Kenyatta goes on trial on charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution and deportation.

Both Kenyatta and Ruto have previously stated they would co-operate with the court.

Ebrahim said today he was now unsure whether the two would attend the trials.

“We don’t know exactly whether they are going to appear and we are going to just see what actually happens.”

Kenya is the first country to hold such a vote to leave the world court.

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