The Department of International Relations and Cooperation should send an unambiguous message around its rejection of the brutality of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by expelling Syrian envoys from South Africa.
Horrifying images and reports coming out of Syria show that the crackdowns of the Syrian army and security forces on civil liberty protestors continue to escalate. International consensus is building that Bashar al-Assad is unlikely to adhere to the terms of the truce negotiated by United Nations (UN) Arab League envoy Kofi Annan on 12 April.
South Africa should demonstrate its revulsion with the violence of the Syrian regime through every diplomatic mechanism at its disposal.
Firstly, we should downgrade diplomatic ties with Syria and, if necessary, expel the Syrian ambassador and diplomatic representatives.
Secondly, South Africa should use its representation in the BRICS group (which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to lobby both Brazil and India to put pressure on China and Russia to allow stronger UN action against Syria. Both China and Russia have been using their veto powers in the UN Security Council to block strong international intervention in Syria.
Thirdly, South Africa should seriously consider joining the Friends of Syria Group – a group of countries and bodies outside of the UN Security Council that are exploring possible solutions to the conflict in Syria.
The death toll in Syria is approaching 10 000. The lives of innocent civilians are at stake. We cannot support a lukewarm diplomatic response from South Africa on this issue.