'Military attack won't solve Syrian conflict'

SA wants all parties involved to engage in dialogue, free of violence.

An image released shows the bodies of children after Syrian rebels claim they were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta. Picture: AFP/Local Committee of Arbeen

CAPE TOWN - The South African government says it doesn't believe western military intervention in Syria will solve the ongoing conflict in the country.

The opposition Syrian National Coalition has urged western powers to act quickly and to launch a punitive strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government in retaliation to an alleged chemical attack last week.

But the United Nations (UN) has pleaded for more time for diplomacy.

The South African government agrees and says UN weapons inspectors should be allowed more time to complete their investigation and announce their findings.

It says only the UN Security Council can mandate the use of military force if other measures are deemed insufficient in bringing about a solution to the crisis.

The International Relations Department's Clayson Monyela says the department doesn't believe military intervention is the answer.

He says government rather wants all parties involved in the conflict to engage in a national dialogue, free of violence.

"We don't believe any military attack on Syria would bring about any sustainable lasting political solution to what is happening there."

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says UN weapons inspectors will continue their investigations until Friday and plan to leave by Saturday morning.

Ki-moon said the team would report to him as soon as they come out of the country.

He also said he had spoken to US President Barack Obama on Wednesday about the situation in Syria, discussing how they can expedite the process of investigation.

Obama made the case on Wednesday for a limited military strike against Syria in response to the chemical attack.

Ki-Moon said anyone using poison gas must be held accountable, but a peaceful solution was best.

"Use of chemical weapons by anyone, for any reason, under any circumstances is a crime against humanity and must be held accountable. It is important that all the differences of opinions should be resolved by peaceful means, through dialogue."

Syria's civil war has killed more than 100,000 people since 2011 and driven millions from their homes with many crossing into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.


Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has added his voice to warnings that a military strike by the west could lead to an escalation of tensions.

Tutu has called for world powers to talk further about the crisis saying it requires human not military intervention.

Tutu says the crisis in Syria offers an opportunity for world powers to talk about difficult topics such as relationships between the west, the Islamic world and Israel and Palestine.

He says the risk of intervention is simply not worth it and further bloodshed must be avoided.

Tutu says what's important is to lay a foundation of peace in the region and to create better understanding.