Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The principle of non-intervention

Der Vizekanzler hatte am Vorabend in Brüssel ein Papier verteilen lassen, in dem Österreich seine Linie darlegt. Das Außenamt warnt darin vor einseitiger Parteinahme, einem Bruch des Völkerrechts und einer Torpedierung der bevorstehenden Syrien-Konferenz. Es weist zudem darauf hin, dass die Waffen, wie jüngst im Falle einer kroatischen Lieferung, bei der al-Nusra-Brigade landen könnten, die der al-Qaida angehört.

Hauptmotiv für Österreichs Haltung: Die Regierung sieht die Sicherheit der österreichischen UN-Soldaten in Syrien gefährdet, wenn die EU die Gegner von Diktator Assad aufrüstet.  
Die Presse: Faymann: „Und wenn wir die Einzigen sind“, 14. Mai 2013 
Simply failing to agree and allowing the embargo to lapse is a result nobody really wants as it would let the regime off the hook as well, unfreezing Assad's bank accounts for example. The most likely outcome is that the creative linguists in Brussels come up with a form of words that each member state can interpret in its own way. This is what happened when the embargo was amended in February, to allow "non-lethal support and technical assistance for the protection of civilians". Most EU members took this to mean technical assistance related to non-lethal equipment. The UK took a more liberal interpretation, relating to all forms of technical assistance, including forms of military training. 
The Guardian: Austria says UK push to arm Syrian rebels would violate international law, May 14, 2013

The articles cited in the Austrian position paper are here (Principle of Non-Intervention), here (common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment) and here (Responsiblity of STates for Internationally Wrongful Acts). 
The sanctions on Syria were imposed in May 2011 and "included an embargo on the supply of arms, military equipment and equipment which might be used for internal repression.", following the violent reaction of the Syrian regime to peaceful anti-government protests. Since then, concerns have risen over some groups linked to the Free Syrian Army or taking part in the struggle against the Syrian government separately. 
Austrian Armed Forces have served in the Golan Heights as part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force guarding the accord between Syrian and Israeli forces since 1974. Since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, there have been repeated violations from the Syrian side. In the beginning of May, four peacekeepers were released after being detained by "armed elements of the Syrian opposition". The Philippines, Japan, Croatia and Austria (which supplies the largest contingent - AUSBATT has a strength of approx. 370 men) have considered withdrawing troops because of the deteriorating situation.

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