WALID AL-MOUALEM, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria, said that, while the peoples of the world waited to see effective and coordinated international efforts to overcome contemporary crises, reality pointed instead to the escalation of hegemony and domination. Instead of seeking to contribute to the settlement of regional and international disputes by peaceful means, some well known countries continued to pursue “new colonial policies” based on hypocrisy. “Under the pretext of humanitarian intervention these countries interfere in the domestic affairs of States and impose unilateral sanctions that lack a moral and legal basis”, he stressed, adding that, under the pretext of concepts such as “the responsibility to protect”, the “drums of war are beaten”, and sedition and unrest were spreading and damaging the structure of national societies. Perhaps worst of all was to see the permanent members of the Security Council — who launched wars under the pretext of combating terrorism — now supporting terrorism in Syria. For more than a year, his country had been facing organized terrorism that led to bombings, assassinations and massacres, as well as looting and sabotage activities that horrified citizens in many parts of Syria. Citing a recent bombing, which had taken place just last week and for which responsibility had been claimed by a terrorist group, he said that it was no surprise that the Security Council had failed to condemn that act. That terrorism was, in fact, externally supported, and was accompanied by “unprecedented media provocation” based on igniting religious extremism. Some States in the region either turned a blind eye to the situation, or provided active material and logistical support for armed terrorist groups. “These facts make me question whether this international consensus by our States on combating terrorism was serious, or was it just merely ink on paper?” In that context, he noted the “explicit request of the United States” that the armed terrorist groups not surrender their arms in response to amnesty decrees issued by the Syrian leadership. He also wondered to what extent the statements of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States and France — which clearly induced support for terrorism in Syria — were in line with the international responsibilities of those States in combating terrorism. The Syrian Government had responded positively throughout the crisis to each sincere initiative aiming to find a peaceful solution based on national dialogue among Syrians, and rejected external manipulation. Syria had cooperated with the Arab Observers Mission, and the subsequent international initiatives linked to the work of the United Nations Special Envoy Kofi Annan. It had received the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) and announced its commitment to the implementation of the Six Point Plan presented by Mr. Annan. Syria had also welcomed the appointment of Lakhdar Brahimi as Special Representative of the Secretary-General and stressed its willingness to cooperate with him on the principles agreed by the international community. The success of any such effort, however, depended on the commitment of States supporting armed groups in Syria — particularly Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya and others — to stop arming, funding, training and harbouring such terrorist groups, and instead to encourage dialogue and renounce violence. The crisis in Syria was a two-sided problem, he went on. The first side was linked to the need for political, economic and social reforms demanded by the public, while the second side was the exploitation of those needs and demands for completely different objectives. In the past year the Government had made serious and important reform steps that culminated in a new constitution that embraced pluralism and that was followed by parliamentary elections. Syria was continuing to work with the patriotic components in the opposition to build a new and pluralistic Syria that responded to the aspirations of its people. Calls from the General Assembly’s podium for the President of Syria, Bashar Al-Assad, to step down were a “blatant interference in the domestic affairs of Syria”, and the unity of its people and its sovereignty. The Syrian people were the only party authorized to choose its own future and the shape of its own State, he stressed, urging countries that were proud of their own democracy and freedom of expression to support Syria in “our democratic course” and leave the Syrian people to choose its leadership through elections whose form was defined by the new Constitution. Inviting the national opposition to join efforts to stop shedding Syrian blood by sitting at the dialogue table, he stressed that the Government of his country still believed in a political solution as the essential way out of the current crisis. He called, therefore, for all parties and political groups — inside and outside of Syria — to take part in a constructive dialogue “under the umbrella of the homeland”. To that end, countries represented in the Assembly should exert pressure to end the violence. The results of that national dialogue, after agreement by all parties, would be the map for a more pluralistic and democratic Syria. The events in Syria had led to growing humanitarian needs in several key sectors in areas affected by the terrorism of Takfiri groups, which had led to the worsening of the living conditions of the Syrian citizens there. While the Government had been working hard to meet the basic needs of the people, some had sought to “fabricate a refugee crisis” through inciting armed groups to intimidate Syrian civilians in border areas and by forcing them to flee to neighbouring countries. He appealed to those Syrian citizens to return to their towns and villages, where the State would guarantee their safe return and their precious lives, away from the “inhumane conditions” they had suffered in refugee camps. He also questioned the credibility of those who called for humanitarian assistance, but at the same time tightened economic sanctions. In addition, he recalled his country’s natural right to the full return of the occupied Syrian Golan and support for the independent Palestinian State on the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. Further, he stressed that the insistence of the United States and countries of the European Union, among others, to adopt unilateral economic measures contradicted the regulations of international law and the principles of free trade, and raised questions about the legality and morality of such practices. In that vein, he called for the lifting of the embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States, as well as for the lifting and ending of all unilateral coercive measures imposed on countries including Venezuela, Belarus, Iran, Syria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.