Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Hague hails UN Syria weapons vote

William Hague announced Britain had pledged a three million-dollar contribution to the intergovernmental body which works to ban chemical weapons (AP/Jason DeCrow)
William Hague announced Britain had pledged a three million-dollar contribution to the intergovernmental body which works to ban chemical weapons (AP/Jason DeCrow)

William Hague has welcomed a "ground-breaking" United Nations resolution to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons, but called for greater efforts to end the suffering of its people.

The Foreign Secretary said the unanimous UN Security Council resolution was about "ensuring" that the horrors of the Assad regime's chemical attacks never happened again.

He claimed the focus was now on "the everyday horrors of the dire humanitarian situation" in Syria ahead of a new round of diplomatic discussions regarding Syria in Geneva in mid-November.

And he announced that Britain had pledged a three million-dollar (£1.8m) contribution to the intergovernmental body which works to ban chemical weapons.

Following the vote, Mr Hague said: " Let us not forget that council action today has come only after two and a half years of unchecked brutality and well over 100,000 dead and millions displaced.

"The failure of the council to tackle the crimes committed on a daily basis has resulted in a culture of impunity in which a brutal regime believed it could get away with murdering its own men, women and children.

"So it is vital that the council now builds on the consensus we have reached today to make progress today towards a sustainable resolution of the crisis.

"With renewed purpose and resolve, we need to achieve a political transition."

The unanimous resolution came after Russia and China had previously vetoed three Western-backed attempts to pressure President Bashar Assad into ending the violence.

Mr Hague said it imposed " legally binding and enforceable obligations on the Syrian regime".

In order to ensure the identification and removal of chemical weapons, he said Britain would give£1.8 million to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons and urged other countries to do the same.

US secretary of state John Kerry said the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile would begin in November and be completed by the middle of next year.

The permanent members of the security council also endorsed for the first time a road map for a political transition in Syria put forward in June 2012.

They declared their aim to a hold negotiations in Geneva in mid-November after the US and Russia achieved a deal there to tackle the issue of Assad's chemical weapons stockpile earlier this month.

Regarding the second meeting in Geneva, Mr Hague said: "The goal is something on which we all agree - a negotiated transition in Syria, starting with the formation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers formed on the basis of mutual consent."

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, a member of the Commons Foreign Affairs committee, said: "Amidst the euphoria at the UN in New York one significant issue remains unresolved.

"Is it now universally accepted, as all the evidence points to, that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own citizens?

"Is there a proper determination to bring to justice those who committed a war crime by using these weapons as the Secretary General of the UN has said?

"It would be quite wrong and contrary to principle if the result of the rapprochement over Syria between the USA and Russia were to wipe a very dirty slate clean."

Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, said: "The fact that the Security Council can reach an agreement on Syria's chemical weapons is very welcome, but chemical weapons are not killing and injuring most children. We now need action by the UN Security Council to get aid to children cut off in Syria.

"If something as sensitive and complex as allowing access for chemical weapons inspectors can be achieved, then surely the basic need for humanitarian aid access can be unanimously supported.

"The children of Syria can't wait another two-and-a-half years for an agreement on the kind of assistance that can save their lives.

"With winter just around the corner, now more than ever, children need food, medicine and shelter. This must be the world's number one priority for Syria."

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