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No military solution to Syrian crisis: India

January 22, 2014 22:19 IST

India on Wednesday asserted there can be no military solution to the lethal Syrian conflict and societies cannot be "re-ordered from outside" as people have the right to choose their own destiny.

As the world powers gathered in Switzerland for the peace conference on Syria (Geneva-II), External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the talks to resolve the conflict within Syria were a "positive" and "timely" step to prevent further destabilisation of the region.

"India believes that societies cannot be re-ordered from outside and that people in all countries have the right to choose their own destiny and decide their own future. In line with this, India supports an all-inclusive Syrian led process to chart out the future of Syria, its political structures and leadership," Khurshid said here as India, for the first time, took part in a UN-sponsored international conference on Syria.

"There can be no military solution to the crisis. India's stand on various resolutions in the Security Council and General Assembly has been in support of efforts to bring about an end to violence by all parties," he said.

The Conference held from January 22-23 has participation from about 40 nations and international groups.

Direct talks were not expected till Friday -- when opposition and regime delegations will meet in Geneva for negotiations.

Khurshid hailed the peace efforts and termed the conference "a mission of hope and vehicle for a peaceful political transition that will fulfil the aspirations of the Syrian people for freedom and dignity as well as provide guarantees for the safety and protection of all communities".

He stressed that the conflict in Syria has raged for far too long and it would be unacceptable not to seize this opportunity to bring an end to the tragic suffering and destruction it has caused.

The conflict has resulted in the death of more than 120,000 people. Estimates by the United Nations Refugee Agency show that about 9.3 million people, nearly half the Syrian population, are now in need of humanitarian assistance, Khurshid pointed out.

Khurshid highlighted that the conflict within Syria threatens the stability and security of the region, with potentially long term impact on the geo-strategic dynamics.

"The conflict has sharply intensified the sectarian fault-lines across the region, with very serious consequences. In particular, the infiltration of all shades of religious extremism in Syria from all parts of the world has rendered the situation extremely dangerous and complicated," he said.

The External Affairs Minister asserted that India has "important stakes in the Syrian conflict".

"It shares deep historical and civilisational bonds with the wider West Asia and Gulf region. We have substantial interests in the fields of trade and investment, diaspora, remittances, energy and security," Khurshid pointed out.

He said in his address here that any spill-over from the Syrian conflict has the potential of impacting negatively on India's larger interests.

Khurshid in his speech said it was expected that all regional and international partners will demonstrate their meaningful support for constructive negotiations but ultimately, it is the Syrian parties themselves who have to chart out their own future.

"India stands fully prepared to play its part in the peace process in any manner required of it, conscious of its larger regional and global responsibilities. It will also be willing to assist appropriately in the implementation of the Conclusions deriving from the deliberations of the Syrian parties in Geneva towards the establishment of long term peace and stability in the region and beyond," Khurshid said.

"We are encouraged that this Conference is a convergence of the positions of global and regional powers with India's own consistently stated position of supporting a comprehensive political settlement of the crisis," he said.

Khurshid pointed out that India responded positively to the international appeal for humanitarian assistance for Syria.

"We have supported full implementation of Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012, which focuses on ceasefire and negotiations between all parties, leading to the formation of a transitional governing body and to be followed by democratically held elections," he said.

India supplied essential food items to Syria last year and pledged USD 2 million to the United Nations Syrian Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan in support of its prioritised humanitarian activities for Syria.

India also supported the Russia-US framework agreement on the time bound safeguarding and destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, in line with its stance of supporting the complete elimination of chemical weapons worldwide.

Khurshid said India is encouraged by the steps taken by Syria to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention and cooperation being offered by it in the destruction of its stockpiles.

"As part of the international effort, India has offered technical expertise to the Organization for Protection of Chemical Weapons for destruction, verification and training activities.

"Additionally, India has offered a financial contribution of USD one million to the OPCW Trust Fund for activities relating to destruction of chemical stockpiles and related facilities in Syria," Khurshid said.

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