Zanele Mbeki. Picture: Gallo Images
A group of eminent South Africans have called on UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon not to take sides in the Syrian conflict and have pushed for unconditional negotiations to end the violence there.
The nine-page open letter, signed by among others Dr Wally Serote, Zanele Mbeki, Rev Frank Chikane, Essop Pahad and Aziz Pahad, called on Ban not to back the Syrian opposition or promote regime change in the country.
The Syrian conflict began when protests calling for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad turned violent in 2011 and has so far claimed 70000 lives.
Former minister in the presidency Essop Pahad said the signatories were totally against any regime change or military intervention. “We do not want what happened in Libya, Iraq and Ivory Coast happening in Syria. It would be to the detriment of the region,” he said.
Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Ebrahim Ebrahim, who was part of formative discussions between Assad and the opposition, said no country should hijack the conflict.
“South Africa supports the UN’s multilateral approach to the country where all sides are involved in the talks,” he said.
But head of NGO Gift of the Givers Imtiaz Sooliman has expressed outrage at the “ruling elite” who he said lost all sensibility, rationality, humanity and mercy.
Sooliman, who is heading a delegation of doctors to the war torn country, called on South Africans to commemorate Syria Day on Friday in the spirit of honouring “those innocents who have been killed violently or otherwise”.
Director at the Centre for Democracy Prof Steven Friedman also expressed support for unconditional negotiations, but expressed concern about indirectly supporting the al-Assad regime.
“The only way to solve this situation is to get everyone involved in the negotiations but at the same time we should not think the Syrian regime is a democratic one.”