Statement by H.E. Mr. Ertuğrul Apakan, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations, at the Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Ertuğrul Apakan 25.06.2012
Mr. President,

I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his introduction, as well as Under Secretary General Amos and Assistant Secretary General Šimonović on behalf of High Commissioner Pillay.

Civilians continue to be the majority of casualties in armed conflicts. Turkey condemns any and all deliberate attacks on civilians and the deaths resulting from the indiscriminate and excessive use of force. We are aware that the primary obligation for protecting civilians as always lies with States. However, the international community also has a responsibility to help protect civilians in situations where States openly fail to do so. Therefore, we need to build a collective awareness of the importance of this responsibility and must be able to agree on the fundamental guidelines.

Mr. President,

We should not fail to recall the plight of the Palestinian people. Whether in Gaza or the West Bank, Palestinians continue to suffer under measures of the illegal blockade and occupation with their fundamental rights being denied. The illegal blockade on Gazza, acting as a collective punishment against civilian Palestinians in Gaza, has entered its sixth year this month. UNRWA and OCHA statistics clearly put forward the devastating effects of the blocade and the occupation, on the daily lives of the Palestinian people. As also recently referred to at the Outcome document of the Rio+20, occupation continues to adversely affect the economic lives and social development as well as the environment of the Palestinians living the occupied territories. The obstacles created by the occupation are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and must be combatted and eliminated.

As regards to the situation in Syria, the Syrian Government has primary responsibility for the protection of its people and should immediately end the violence, which has led to more than thousands of deaths and a humanitarian tragedy which affected 1.5 million people so far according to OCHA statistics. The international community must display its resolve to put an end to the cycle of violence and the deepeninig crisis in Syria and to take necessary additional measures to that effect. Turkey, together with the international community, will continue to support the six-point plan of Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan. This process however cannot be open-ended.

Mr. President,

We have carefully read the Secretary-General’s latest and 9th report on the issue. While sharing the Secretary General’s ongoing and emerging concerns, I would like to underline three issues.

The first one relates to the dialogue with non-state armed groups. We understand the rationale of humanitarian access to civilians. However, Turkey believes that in doing so we should be extremely careful not to extend any sense of legitimacy to terrorist organizations. Terrorist organizations in various parts of the world attempt to exploit such a humanitarian approach to gain international acceptance and recognition. On the other hand, if engagement with non-state armed groups is contemplated, consent of the state in question is necessary.

The second point is that we should make a clear distinction between counter-terrorism efforts of law enforcement agencies and “armed conflict”. We strongly condemn all acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. As indicated in the Council’s Presidential Statement of 27 September 2010, adopted during Turkey’s Security Council Presidency, and in other relevant UN Resolutions, terrorism continues to pose a serious threat to the enjoyment of human rights, the social and economic development, and undermines global stability and prosperity. Therefore, governments have not only the legitimate right, but also the obligation to effectively combat terrorism, and to fully and effectively cooperate with other States.

Lastly, we believe that UN documents should not contain positive references to NGOs that are known to have become the instrument of terrorist organizations.

Mr. President,

The issue of protecting civilians in armed conflict is a cause that the international community must pursue with an unwavering determination. We believe that in order to ensure a long-term and lasting protection of civilians, human rights, rule of law, democracy and good governance should be strengthened. We should also make sure that the perpetrators of violence against civilians are held fully accountable for their actions. For, sustainable prevention and protection would only be possible if there is no impunity.

Thank you.