St Vincent PM against external military strike on Syria

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, Tuesday September 3, 2013 – The St Vincent and the Grenadines government said on Monday that it was “alarmed” at the recent allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria and remains deeply concerned with the spiralling humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.

But the government said it considers any external military action to be “premature”.

The United States has said it had irrefutable evidence that the chemical weapons were used by the Bashar al-Assad administration resulting in the deaths of nearly 1500 people including more than 400 children last month.

The Obama administration has promised military retaliation and is awaiting a confidence vote by the US Congress for its impending action.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves told a news conference that his administration is concerned at “the mounting death toll” in the two-year civil war.

“The reports of the use of chemical weapons by combatants in the war, if independently verified, would represent an abhorrent and reprehensible development in the Syrian civil war,” Gonsalves said, noting that St Vincent and the Grenadines is a party to the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the Chemicals Weapons Convention (CWC), both of which ban the use of chemical weapons.

He said the island was also a party to other protocols banning the use of poisonous or other gases and bacterial methods of warfare.

“As such we stand unambiguously with the civilised nations of the world in condemning any and all uses of such weapons as a gross violation of international war.

“If a single example of the use of chemical weapons in Syria can be confirmed, St Vincent and the Grenadines call for a clear determination of the individuals involved in carrying out such heinous acts and for these individuals to be tried as war criminals and face the full weight of international law”.

But Gonsalves said that his administration “notes with concern” the recent attempts by many Western countries to use the “alleged development of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab republic as a basis upon which to initiate an external military strike on Syria.

“At the present time, the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines considers such action to be at best premature.

“Such a military strike, whatever its tactical nature, does not currently have an established factual or legal basis and would itself represent a violation of international law and a subversion of the multilateral processes that govern the conduct of nations”.

Gonsalves, who said he would be addressing the United Nations General Assembly later this month, told reporters that although the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the CWC ban the use of chemical weapons “neither treaty authorises countries to attack other states in violation of these treaties.

“It has never been the case that third states or groups of states can take it upon themselves to punish countries with military force for the violations of any treaty provisions,” Gonsalves said, adding “unless a state is acting in individual or collective self defence, the only body that can authorise preventative, punitive or cohesive military action is the United Nations Security Council”.

Gonsalves told reporters that “to date, the United Nations Security Council has not authorised such action” and that the Security Council’s reluctance to do so “cannot itself be cited by some countries as the basis to act without a Security Council mandate.

“Such an argument would render the Security Council irrelevant and the United Nations Charter meaningless.

“In that regard, the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines urges those governments which are in favour of immediate military intervention to reconsider their stated position that the possible use of the veto by Russian Federation, in this instance, requires other Western states to act independently in this regard of the explicit provision of the United Nations Charter.”

Gonsalves said his administration notes also that military action is being contemplated with “independent confirmation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria and a clear determination of which party or parties authorised and deployed the weapons in violation of international laws”.

He said while there are “horrific pictures” in the media of the situation caused by the use of the chemical weapons, the UN experts are still doing their investigations.

Gonsalves said the government is mindful of recent instances in which military action was justified “on the basis of deeply flawed intelligence assessments regarding the presence of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction”.

He said the intervention in Iraq was on the basis of “an entirely false prospectus” and that is why his administration is asking “that we have some independent verification” in Syria.

“Accordingly the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines urges those states currently contemplating military action against Syria to exercise patience and respect the multilateral processes that are in place to govern precisely such eventualities,” he said outlining a number of provisions to be met before any military action is taken..

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