Caricom today opposed the use of military force to address the conflict in Syria and called for a valiant effort by all sides for a negotiated political settlement.
Its position came in a statement following the Fourth Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Caricom and Cuba at Calivigny Island, Grenada yesterday.
While the intention by the United States and other countries to strike Syria over the suspected use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime was not mentioned, the statement will be seen as a rebuke for Washington’s ongoing plan to seek congressional authorization for a military strike against Damascus outside of a United Nations mandate.
The statement said that Caricom is closely monitoring the evolving developments in the two-year civil war in Syria, including the recent alarming allegations about the use of chemical weapons in that country and the reported deaths of over 1000 persons.
The statement said “CARICOM condemns unreservedly the use of chemical weapons which is a gross contravention of international law including the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention. It also expresses its abhorrence of any such atrocity which would add a horrific dimension to an already brutal and bloody civil war.
“CARICOM deplores the rising toll on civilians – over 100,000 persons have been killed and some 2 million Syrians have become refugees – and is concerned that any escalation of the protracted conflict can lead to a conflagration in a volatile region as well as exacerbate an already grave humanitarian crisis and increase the loss of life. Consequently, CARICOM believes that the time has come for the international community to make a valiant effort to help the Syrian parties reach a negotiated political settlement to what appears to have become a stalemated conflict.
“CARICOM therefore strongly endorses the calls of the UN Secretary General for the situation to be resolved through dialogue and not through the recourse to the use of military force or any other action which would violate international law. The report of the UN investigative team should be awaited in order to determine beyond a shadow of doubt the veracity of the use of chemical weapons. CARICOM calls on all parties involved to work together to bring an end to the conflict.”
The circumstances of the statement – a meeting with Cuba – and the location of the gathering, Grenada are rich with irony.
Grenada had been the scene of a 1983 invasion by the US’s Reagan administration following the overthrow of the Maurice Bishop government, a move which had been actively supported by some Caricom countries. It had also been alleged by the US at the time that Cuba was assisting Grenada with facilities to aid a Soviet-Cuban military build-up in the Caribbean based upon the 9,000 ft length runway of the Point Salines airport. The US invasion had been denounced by Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago also by the UN General Assembly.