Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

7 June 2012 - United Nations General Assembly


Thursday 7 June 2012

The Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations


Thank you Mr President.

Australia strongly supports Joint Special Envoy Annan's efforts to implement his six-point peace plan - endorsed by the international community, including the UN Security Council and the Arab League - the best chance for a resolution to the crisis in Syria.

But as Mr Annan has said today this cannot be open-ended. As he said, the crisis is escalating; the violence is getting worse and more brutal, and we face the prospect of more massacres, sectarian conflict and all-out civil war. Secretary-General Ban has asked for further discussion on how the international community can act more effectively. The Arab League has urged additional decisive measures by the Security Council within a specific time-frame and under Chapter VII. We endorse these calls.

Today's statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights is deeply disturbing. It is imperative that those responsible for the crimes committed across Syria since the violence started over a year ago - for what the Secretary-General has described as the trail of blood - be held to account. There is a case to be made that crimes against humanity have been committed - this may justify referral to the International Criminal Court.

While we urge Syrian opposition groups to make efforts to cease violence and respect human rights, as Mr Annan made clear this morning, the weight of responsibility is on the Syrian Government to implement Mr Annan’s plan. And sustained action by the international community is necessary to support Mr Annan’s efforts. Mr Annan has called for us to find a way to act as one. He has made it clear there must be consequences if compliance is not forthcoming.

We pay particular tribute to the ongoing work of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). UNSMIS observers are doing difficult, dangerous - but nonetheless vital - work. We are concerned by the Secretary-General's report this morning of further attacks against the observers. The Syrian Government must meet its responsibility to protect UNSMIS personnel as well as to guarantee their unrestricted access.

Australia has joined other states in the Human Rights Council and in the General Assembly to send a clear message - that violence must stop and genuine, serious political reform must commence. While the Syrian Government continues to fail to implement Mr Annan’s plan, we will join others in maintaining diplomatic pressure, including through the implementation of strong, autonomous sanctions directed against the Syrian regime, not the Syrian people.

And as we strive to reach a political solution to the current crisis, we must respond to the ongoing humanitarian crisis. We endorse the Secretary-General's call this morning for President Al-Assad to allow UN humanitarian teams to operate freely.

The UN’s Syria Response Plan [USD180 million] is still 80% under-funded and the Regional Refugee Response Plan [USD 84 million] is more than 60% underfunded. Additional funding is urgently required for both and we encourage Member States to provide the funds needed.

To conclude, we urge all parties to the crisis in Syria to adhere to the terms of the cease-fire and end the violence immediately. And we urge all relevant parts of the UN system, and in particular the Security Council, to take the decisive, necessary steps to ensure compliance with the six point plan and end this dangerously escalating crisis.

Thank you, Mr President.