As president of the UN Security Council from September 1, Australia will lead the international debate on the worsening Syrian crisis amid growing pressure on Moscow and Beijing to bring the Assad regime into line.
After the deaths of an estimated 1300 Syrians in what rebels have claimed was a sarin nerve-gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus, Foreign Minister Bob Carr called on Russia and China — close allies of President Bashar al-Assad — to warn Syria’s government that it was “crossing a red line”.
Senator Carr said yesterday the appalling crime could signal a serious escalation in the conflict.
Australia takes the chair of the Security Council during the federal election “caretaker period”, which means Kevin Rudd and Senator Carr would have to consult closely with Tony Abbott and the Coalition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop.
The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader appear to be on course for a strong bipartisan approach.
Mr Abbott said the reports emerging from Syria were shocking and if proven would constitute an utterly reprehensible crime against humanity “and, I’ve got to say, of a piece with the kind of horror we have come to expect from one of the worst regimes in the world”. But the Opposition Leader warned that there was no magic wand that would bring the Syrian conflict to an end.
“No one should underestimate the difficulty of trying to bring about better outcomes in the Middle East,” he said.
It appeared the deadly gas may have been been fired in to the capital’s outer suburbs in warheads of rockets designed to carry chemical weapons.
A specialist UN team is already in Damascus, at the invitation of the Syrian authorities, to investigate earlier gas attacks. The UN has told the Assad regime it wants to send the experts in to the stricken area to identify the cause of the deaths and investigate where the killer gas came from.
Australia has taken a leading role in the push for a ban on chemical weapons. Mr Rudd said Australia had co-authored a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asking him to send the weapons inspectors to the area immediately.
The Prime Minister said the use of weapons of mass destruction was always intolerable and unacceptable. “When weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, are used against civilian targets, it is repugnant beyond description,” he said.
Mr Rudd said he had been briefed by Australia’s ambassador to the UN, Gary Quinlan, after a lengthy meeting of the Security Council in New York. Asked if the international community should intervene in the increasingly brutal civil war, the Prime Minister said it was important to establish the facts and then work out an appropriate course of action.Source: The Australian – Australia to take charge of UN response on Syria
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