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Johannesburg - South Africa should move away from its neutral stance regarding the conflict in Syria, the DA said on Friday.
“While the death toll in Syria continues to rise, South Africa’s representatives in the UN Security Council have once again abstained from voting in support of decisive UN action in Syria,” said Democratic Alliance international relations spokesman Ian Davidson.
“Once again, the department of international relations and co-operation (DIRCO) is allowing autocratic regimes with poor human rights records to dictate South Africa’s foreign policy,” he said in a statement.
On Thursday, Russia and China vetoed a security council resolution to extend a United Nations observer mission in Syria for 45 days.
There were 11 votes in favour of the resolution in the 15-nation council.
South Africa and Pakistan abstained.
“The dream of a negotiated settlement will never be realised without more decisive initial steps to de-escalate the violence,” said Davidson.
South Africa should not be caught on the wrong side of history, following its indecision on UN action in Libya, he said.
South Africa was losing credibility with western and Arab League nations as a country which believed in human rights and international order.
“DIRCO fence-sitting raises questions about our capacity to make tough decisions which may offend some of our more dubious friends,” said Davidson.
International Relations and Co-operation Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said in Pretoria on Friday that South Africa had abstained from the vote because the resolution was “unbalanced”.
“... It only targeted the Syrian government,” Ebrahim told reporters.
“It said nothing about the opposition, who are now fighting in the capital (Damascus),” he said.
The rebel forces in Syria were not just defending themselves, but were on the offensive and wanted to take power, Ebrahim said.
The resolution also threatened Syrian authorities with sanctions if they did not stop using heavy weapons against the uprising, and withdraw troops from towns and cities.
Ebrahim said South Africa supported the extension of the deadline for the UN mission in Syria, but said the resolution should not have included the issue of sanctions.
The Russians were against this aspect of the resolution too, as they said it could open the door to military intervention.
South Africa is a non-permanent member of the UNSC.
In a communiqué on Syria, the UN said the crisis between the government and the opposition movement had “continued unabated” since an uprising against President Bashir al-Assad began about 16 months ago.
The UN estimated that more than 10 000 people, mostly civilians, had been killed in the fighting, and tens of thousands displaced. - Sapa