Demonstrators protest at the White House in Washington on September 2, 2013, against a possible US attack on Syria
Demonstrators protest at the White House in Washington on September 2, 2013, against a possible US attack on Syria. Former high-ranking UN officials urged the United States and others Monday to refrain from bombing Syria over a devastating chemical attack, and instead work harder to broker a political solution in the war-torn country. © Jewel Samad - AFP
Demonstrators protest at the White House in Washington on September 2, 2013, against a possible US attack on Syria
AFP
Last updated: September 3, 2013

Talk, don't bomb, former UN officials urge in appeal on Syria

Former high-ranking UN officials urged the United States and others Monday to refrain from bombing Syria over a devastating chemical attack, and instead work harder to broker a political solution in the war-torn country.

Former deputy chief of the United Nations Hans-Christof von Sponeck launched the appeal in Swiss daily Le Temps' online edition, with support from his former UN colleagues Denis Halliday, Said Zulficar, Samir Radwan and Samir Basta.

"True courage does not consist in sending in cruise missiles...it consists in radically breaking from this murderous logic," wrote von Sponeck, who coordinated the UN's humanitarian actions in Iraq from 1998 to 2000.

Much of the international community, including the United States, Britain and France, has blamed the Syrian regime for an August 21 chemical attack near the capital Damascus that killed hundreds.

The British parliament vetoed Prime Minister David Cameron's plans for an intervention, but Paris and Washington have said they are intent on punishing Assad's regime, even though US President Barack Obama has deferred action pending Congressional support.

Even if Western governments provide proof that the Syrian regime is to blame for the attack, "there is reason to remain sceptical and to remember all the questionable or fabricated pretexts used to justify previous wars," von Sponeck wrote, referring implicitly to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq on the basis of false intelligence.

"The time when the United States and the few allies it still has acted as the world police is over. The world has become more multifaceted and the people of the world want more sovereignty, not less," he stressed.

"The Syrian, Iranian and Russian governments have made proposals to negotiate, which have been treated with disdain by the West.

"Those who say: 'We cannot talk or negotiate with Assad' forget that people said the same thing" about a range of regimes and revolutionary movements like the Soviet Union, the Palestinian PLO, Irish IRA and former South African president Nelson Mandela and his ANC movement, among others," he pointed out.

Instead of going into conflicts with bombs blazing, Western powers should focus on helping the parties settle their differences.

"For Israel to negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians, organise the Geneva 2 conference (to end the conflict in) Syria, and talk with the Iranians about their nuclear programme," von Sponeck suggested.

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