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The letter, which had been making the rounds online and was the focus of much debate, criticised a resolution drafted and distributed by Qatar to the UN General Assembly (GA) on April 10. The GA is expected to vote on the resolution at the end of the month.
“Yes, the Permanent Representative of India [to the UN] along with his colleagues from Brazil and South Africa did send a letter on 19 April to the Permanent Representative of Qatar,” confirmed Syed Akbaruddin, the Joint Secretary (XP) at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.
The letter, obtained by Inner City – a website that monitors UN news, did confirm its belief that the Syrian government bore the primary responsibility of protecting its citizens.
However, it called on Qatar “to acknowledge the responsibility of all sides, including the armed opposition, for the ongoing violence and violations of human rights in Syria as also mentioned in the Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/22/59)”.
The letter went further to urge Qatar to remove from its draft resolution any language recognizing any opposition group as the representative of the Syrian people.
“This is a follow up to the IBSA [The India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum] initiative of 2011,” says Kanwal Sibal, a former foreign secretary of India, who served as ambassador to Turkey, France and Egypt.
Sibal says the letter’s signatories are three non-Western developing countries and emerging economies and their views have a special relevance.
“Qatar also should not want a resolution that divides the developing countries/non-aligned group as that would weaken the force of the resolution. It should be a consensus resolution that reflects the broad views of the entire international community and not the partisan interests of a particular group of countries,” Sibal told The BRICS Post.
He believes that the letter is right to warn against any provision in the resolution giving recognition to any particular opposition group; he also warns that the burden to end the violence should not be put solely on the government, but on all parties.
“That would be playing the Western game and that of some Arab countries,” he adds.
Qatar has been the most vehement among Arab nations in supporting opposition groups against the government of Bashar Al-Assad, calling for stronger military and logistical support from the international community.
At an Arab League summit held in Doha at the end of March, Qatar was instrumental in getting support to award Syria’s seat (and membership) to the Syrian National Council opposition group.
But Qatar’s prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, insists that his country is not looking for a role only for itself, but is working to consolidate a pan-Arab role for Syria.
The letter signed by the Brazilian, Indian and South African UN Ambassadors, however, calls on Qatar to reverse its support for the opposition and instead “include a call for complete cessation of violence by all sides and no further militarization of the conflict, as stated in the Geneva Final Communiqué of the Action Group on Syria”.
The Geneva Communiqué is the June 30, 2012 resolution reached by the Syria Action Group – comprising Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, Kofi Annan, former Arab League envoy and Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.
The communiqué called on both sides in Syria to immediately halt the violence, open negotiations, and form a transitional governing body.
Malte Brosig, a senior lecturer in the Department of International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, believes that IBSA countries felt alienated after “military coercive means had been applied rather quickly leading to regime change [in Libya] and which supposedly neglected diplomatic instruments”.
David J Hornsby, also a lecturer in the Department of International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand, says that IBSA countries are clearly trying to get involved in the diplomatic debates regarding Syria.
“This is part of a strategic move that IBSA and BRICS states are taking to emphasise that their emerging status is not just be restricted to trade or economic development,” he says.
“These are states that share common values and take common positions on the international stage and will attempt to influence problem areas like Syria.”
The letter concluded by calling on the Qatari government to “adjust the language on political transition to the terms agreed in the Geneva Final Communiqué”.
“The Geneva agreement is important. The IBSA position is based on principles that should govern such matters,” says Sibal.
“The peace process should be Syria-led, as the letter says, and not imposed externally. If Qatar/Western countries push for a one-sided resolution, there would be growing polarization.”
Fellow BRICS members China and Russia have persistently said that the Communiqué remains the best solution to the conflict, which has now entered its third year and killed more than 70,000 people, according to UN estimates.
The BRICS Post