Thank you Mr. President,
And thank you for organizing this important meeting.
I wish to welcome His Excellency Sheikh Hamad, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar, and Dr Nabil al-Arabi, the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, to the Council. I would also like to thank them for their comprehensive and very useful briefings and commend them both for their tireless efforts with a view to solving the crisis in Syria.
I decided to participate in this meeting of the Security Council for the simple reason that what is happening in Syria is of such seriousness; the inaction of the international community is so shocking; an Arab solution is so urgent; and a decision of the United Nations is so essential, that I felt compelled to participate in this debate and to do whatever I can to transform deadlock into solution, hesitation into will.
The situation in Syria is both unacceptable and untenable.
For ten months now, we have witnessed the most brutal repression against civilians and the most flagrant and systematic violation of their fundamental human rights.
The brutality of the Syrian authorities has left in its wake thousands of dead, and many more thousands maimed, imprisoned and tortured. They have shown their contempt for basic human rights and their unwillingness to protect their population.
According to UNICEF, nearly four hundred children have lost their lives in Syria. This is indeed a measure of the atrocities committed.
The only aspiration of the Syrian people, inspired by their brethren in other Arab countries, was simply to voice their protest and to pave the way for a democratic society. They did that peacefully, unarmed, only to be met by bullets, beatings and arrests. These victims and their Families merit our full solidarity.
As deadly violence goes on unabated, the situation in Syria continues to spiral dangerously towards civil war, with serious risks for peace and security in the region.
And yet, the Security Council has not been able to fully meet its responsibilities regarding Syria and the Syrian people, as well as its role as the primary body entrusted with the maintenance of international peace and security.
Allow me to be clear: the argument voiced during these ten months that in Syria the choice was between inaction or civil war does not hold given what we see, hear and read every day: the country is descending into civil war. The real option now is between an escalation of the conflict or a controlled and negotiated political solution.
Portugal fully supports the efforts of the League of Arab States to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis. One that both ensures the end of violence and allows for the implementation of a serious political process, which will establish a free and democratic Syria.
We have commended the deployment of the Arab Observer Mission and the decision to extend its mandate.
Notwithstanding, the deployment of this Mission, the regime continues with its violent oppression against peaceful voices of dissent and its widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights, as documented by the Commission of Inquiry of the Human Rights Council.
The Commission’s accounts are horrifying and all those responsible for these brutal violations and abuses must be held accountable. We are appalled by the killing last week of the head of a Syrian Arab Red Crescent branch. We must reiterate, firmly, unequivocally, that the deliberate targeting of humanitarian personnel is simply barbaric.
By persistently ignoring numerous appeals to put and end to its bloody crackdown, the Syrian authorities have fueled escalation and violence. Even under the repression they are subjected to, we trust that the Syrian opposition movement will maintain the peaceful nature of their legitimate objectives.
I cannot stress enough the urgency of an immediate end to all violence. Equally pressing is the undertaking of a serious political process that will lead to a democratic, plural political system where all citizens, regardless of their affiliation, ethnicity or beliefs, are treated equally and can fulfill their legitimate aspirations.
Some months ago President Assad announced reforms. Yet, he did not fulfill either these promises or his commitments with the Arab League. In situations of this nature the old principle that it is enough to change a few things so that everything stays the same is not applicable. Quite on the contrary, the lesson of history is the following: where there are no reforms, there will be revolutions.
Portugal remains committed to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria. The longer this crisis persists, the deeper the scars in the Syrian society will be.
My country values highly the role of regional organizations and their contribution to peace and security. We believe the League of Arab States is best suited to lead the efforts aimed at solving a crisis that entails direct risks and threats to many of its member states.
As I said:
We fully support the efforts of the League of Arab States;
We supported without hesitation the request for this meeting;
We staunchly support the League’s Decision of the 22nd of January and the political roadmap therein, as the only viable path towards establishing a credible political dialogue among all Syrians and leading to a peaceful political transition.
We urge all Syrian parties, factions and stakeholders to respond positively to this proposal.
Portugal fully subscribes to the need for the formation of a national unity government and strongly appeals to President Assad to delegate full authority to his Deputy in order to carry out a peaceful political transition, in accordance with what has been underlined by the Prime Minister of Qatar.
To cut a long story short: we appeal to all members of this Council not to look to Syria with the eyes of the past, on the wake of old divisions. What is at stake in Syria is an Arab initiative for a problem that is first and foremost an Arab one. It is a crisis that the world and the United Nations cannot ignore. All members of this Council should feel comfortable with the initiative of the Arab League, because no member of this Council is comfortable with the daily massacres in Syria.
Inaction is not only unacceptable but also irresponsible.
It is high time we live up to our responsibilities, that we address the legitimate demands of the Syrian people and the expectations of the countries of the region.
We must unite in a strong and clear message to the Syrian Authorities. It is also the credibility of the Security Council that is at stake.
We must tell them, unequivocally, that the killing must stop and that a political solution must be sought, based on the proposals of the Arab League.
It is for theses reasons that Portugal commends Morocco for submitting a draft resolution with these objectives in view. We will continue to engage in good faith with all Council members in order to expeditiously approve this resolution.
The situation in Syria has already brought serious disruption to its neighbours. I wish, in this context, to express my country’s deep appreciation for the assistance that countries in the region, namely Turkey, are providing to those fleeing violence, persecution and repression.
But let us be clear.
If we do not act, not only will we be condemning the Syrian people to yet more violence and repression, we will also be increasing the risks for peace and security of the whole region. There is no more time to lose.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
A year ago, the people of Tunisia set in motion a wave that quickly changed the face of the Arab world. After decades of silence and dread, ordinary people broke away from the shackles of fear. They found their voice, bravely took to the streets and made themselves heard. They strove for freedom, for equality, and for their right to build a democratic state and their citizenship. They refused to cower into submission.
These are also the aspirations of the Syrian people and they too refuse to submit to disproportionate brutal force.
President Roosevelt included in his four famous freedoms the Freedom from Fear.
It is our duty to help the Syrian people to free themselves from the fear inflicted daily on them.
To put a stop to the killings;
To allow for a peaceful solution;
We must act, and we must act now!
As Dostoyevsky said: “to live without hope is to cease to live”.
It is upon us to give hope and to protect the lives of the Syrian people.
I thank you for your kind attention.