Thank you for convening today’s timely meeting. We are also grateful for the detailed and somber report provided by the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Syrian authorities have deliberately ignored to comply with its obligations under international law and have committed crimes against humanity. The Syrian authorities have chosen to brutally crack down on largely peaceful protests in Syria and are pursuing a “shoot-to-kill” policy. It is shocking that Syrian children reportedly have been subject to the worst crimes, including being tortured to death. Heavy weaponry is also used indiscriminately against innocent civilians in residential areas. Norway strongly condemns the violence carried out by the Syrian regime and deplores the human suffering that it has caused.
A Government which uses its military force against its own population in this manner has lost all legitimacy. Mr. Assad cannot be said to speak for the Syrian people anymore, and should step aside, so that a meaningful political transition towards democracy can start.
Despite agreement to abide by the Arab League’s action plan from 2 November 2011 the Syrian regime has deliberatively ignored to implement these promises. While all parties have to end violence, there can be no doubt that the Syrian authorities bear the prime responsibility to abide by international law. The Syrian authorities must also urgently allow full and unhindered access of international humanitarian assistance.
Since the crisis broke out in March 2011, together with partners, Norway has firmly supported various efforts to get the situation in Syria addressed in the UN. We have also called for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court. Furthermore we have imposed targeted sanctions against the Syrian authorities and those responsible for the violent repression. We are ready to consider, jointly with partners, additional measures if the repression continues.
Norway remains deeply disappointed by the recent double-veto cast in the UN Security Council. However thirteen Council Members voted in favor, which sent a strong message of broad international support to the Arab League’s initiative.
The Arab League’s call for a Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people represents the most credible effort to achieve a peaceful and political solution to the crisis. This transition must be Syrian-led, and it should be supervised under Arab League’s auspices and follow a clear timetable based on its decision of 22 January. The Arab League’s efforts over seven months to end the bloodshed have been commendable, though hard won. It enjoys our full support.
Norway has sent a clear message of support to the Syrian people, and will continue to engage with those representatives of the Syrian opposition who adhere to non-violence and democracy. This, and the need to monitor the situation on the ground, is why Norway maintains its diplomatic presence in Damascus, which is subject to ongoing review. Together with Arab and international partners we support the establishment of a broad based international support group for a peaceful political transition by increasing the pressure on the Syrian authorities and to protect the Syrian people. We commend Tunisia for hosting the first meeting on 24 February.
We welcome the Arab League’s decision on 12 February which we consider to be part of a comprehensive political roadmap on the basis of the Arab League’s decision from 22 January. We therefore regret that this was immediately rejected by the Syrian authorities.
We gather in the UN General Assembly to demonstrate our solidarity with the Syrian people by increasing the pressure on the Syrian regime and to adopt a resolution in support of ending the crisis in Syria.