UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Syria’s foreign minister yesterday appealed to the 193 UN member states to halt the “foreign intervention” that he said was behind six months of anti-government demonstrations that have not abated.
“We deeply regret the surge in the activities of armed groups in Syria, which have not waned and instead continued to spiral,” Walid al-Moualem told the UN General Assembly during its annual session in New York.
“The presence of these groups … is the manifestation of foreign intervention,” he said.
Moualem addressed the world body after four Syrian soldiers were shot dead on Monday as they tried to escape a military camp and troops sealed off towns in a continuing crackdown on opponents of President Bashar al-Assad, activists said.
“I assure you that our people are determined to reject all forms of foreign intervention in their internal affairs,” he said.
“From this rostrum, I call on states which have partaken in the unjust campaign against Syria to reconsider their positions,” Moualem said. “To them I say our people will foil your schemes.”
He also criticized the sanctions that the United States, European Union and others had imposed on Damascus. Moualem said Assad’s promised democratic reforms have had “to take a back seat to other priorities.”
Faced with expanding street protests demanding an end to 41 years of Assad family rule, the president has sent troops and tanks into cities and towns across the country over the last six months.
The military crackdown has killed at least 2,700 people, including 100 children, according to the United Nations. Syrian authorities say 700 police and army have been killed during the unrest which they blame on “terrorists” and “mutineers.”
The United States and its European allies have attempted to persuade the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Syria for the crackdown against protesters, but Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa — the powerful “BRICS” bloc of emerging nations — have resisted the push to punish Damascus.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said his country, one of the temporary council members, would “continue to press for a Security Council resolution” on Syria.
“If the repression continues, we Europeans will further tighten the sanctions against the (Syrian) regime,” he said.
A senior US State Department official said Syria came up during Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in New York yesterday.
“I think it’s fair to say that Foreign Minister Yang understood and supported the notion of the Security Council taking further action and they agreed to have our ambassadors work on this in the coming days,” the official said.