Saturday, 10 March 2012

Lib Dem motion on Syria

I am not at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in Gateshead (or "Newcastle-Gateshead", as some are calling it). A lot of the media coverage focuses on the Emergency Motion that will be debated tomorrow, Sunday morning. There's been a ballot of people at the conference to choose which one of four motions gets debated tomorrow. Two are on health, one is on criminal justice and the other is on Syria. The members rarely vote for foreign-policy to be the subject of this one and only Emergency Debate; they usually vote to debate either this week's big UK news story (which is obviously NHS reform) or something that they are campaigning on locally at home. So I suspect that Syria won't be the one picked for debate. But isn't it an excellent motion? Nuanced, measured and accurate on detail. People often accuse Liberal Democrats of talking about some foreign policy problems more than others, and that is sometimes true, but it is also true that a lot of Lib Dems do actually make noises about a very wide range of foreign policy matters, even if it doesn't always get reported very much. The motion reads:

Emergency motion 3: Violence in Syria

Conference condemns:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brutal slaughter of his own people and his repeated targeting of civilians, resulting in the loss of over 7,500 lives.

Syrian government officials, including Bashar al-Assad, who are responsible for ordering crimes against humanity and other gross human rights violations, including executing deserters and torturing detainees, as reported by the United Nations-appointed independent international commission of inquiry on Syria.

Continued Iranian, Russian and Chinese backing of the Assad regime.

The Russian and Chinese veto in late January of a UN Security Council Resolution, proposed by the Kingdom of Morocco on behalf of the Arab League, which called for a peaceful end to the crisis in Syria.

The Assad regime hindering humanitarian organisations reaching those Syrian civilians caught in the violence and in need of food, water, sanitation provisions and medical attention.

Conference welcomes:

A. The diplomatic effort the UK Coalition Government is making to coordinate pressure on the Assad regime, particularly in working with the European Union, United Nations, Arab League and Friends of Syria group.

B. The appointment of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the joint Special Envoy to Syria for the UN and Arab League.

C. The Government's decision on 29 February to suspend the services of the British Embassy in Damascus and withdraw all diplomatic staff.

Conference calls for:

1. Continued political momentum and peaceful international pressure, with support from the Arab League, for an immediate ceasefire and unhindered access to the Syrian men, women and children affected by the violence and in need of humanitarian relief.

2. Continued support for the Syrian National Council to encourage a more united and representative Syrian opposition toward a peaceful and more democratic Syria.

3. The Government to support the UN High Commission for Refugees in its efforts to assist the thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

4. The Government to engage more actively and directly with our NATO ally Turkey to address this situation on its borders.

5. The Government to build on the EU sanctions agreed on 27 February, which further restrict the Assad regime's sources of revenue.

6. Those Syrian officials accused of crimes against humanity to be brought to justice.

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