Bulgaria ‘awaiting clear resolution from UN Security Council on Syria’

In contrast to the strong positions taken by the United States, United Kingdom and France – as well as the Nato chief – on the tempest around the fatal use of chemical warfare against Syrian civilians, Bulgaria continues to hold back on the question of joining potential military action against the Assad regime.

There is a sharp division among major countries on the issue of moving against the Assad regime, which has denied allegations that it used chemical weaponry that caused 300 deaths and which instead blames the rebels. While Washington, London and Paris are widely seen as poised to act on the conviction that Assad is to blame and to launch punitive military action, the Syrian regime’s ally in Moscow has warned against such action.

Speaking in Sofia after a scheduled meeting on August 28, Kristian Vigenin, foreign minister in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government that took office in May 2013, told reporters, “at this time, no specific request has been received for Bulgaria to support or participate in any military operation or other form of direct intervention in Syria”.

He appealed for there not to be “speculation” about the issue. “When and if our assistance is requested, we will declare our position,” Vigenin said.

He said that he expected the UN Security Council to accept the responsibility to come up with a clear resolution, while also further strengthening political efforts to resolve the crisis, including through the long-intended conference in Geneva.

He said that there was to be a NATO meeting at ambassadorial level on August 28, which would discuss the situation in Syria. “We await the results of the investigation by the UN mission and in accordance with them, we will plan the steps and the position of our country,” he said.

The Security Council, which is within the office of the Prime Minister, is scheduled to meet on August 30 to discuss the situation in Syria as well as “potential threats to the security of Bulgaria and possible refugee flow to our country,” Vigenin said.

At the August 28 Cabinet meeting, it was decided to allocate 565 000 leva to be used to create additional capacity for temporary accommodation for asylum seekers.

In the first seven months of 2013, the number of refugees was five times higher than in the previous year. “At this stage, however, there is no direct threat, these are preventive measures, that every serious country should take,” Vigenin said. In addition, the Interior Ministry would strengthen control at the border with Turkey.

Previous reports in recent months have indicated that refugees from Syria make up a significant proportion of would-be illegal entrants into Bulgaria at the Turkish border.

On August 28, speaking after a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the council had discussed the situation in Syria and in particular the “horrific” use of chemical weapons on August 21.

“The Syrian regime maintains custody of stockpiles of chemical weapons.  Information available from a wide variety of sources points to the Syrian regime as responsible for the use of chemical weapons in these attacks.

“This is a clear breach of long-standing international norms and practice. Any use of such weapons is unacceptable and cannot go unanswered.  Those responsible must be held accountable,” Rasmussen said.

The UK would introduce a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on August 28 that authorises “necessary measures to protect civilians” in Syria. The move comes as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Security Council members to take a united stand on the Syrian crisis, the Voice of America reported.

The Security Council’s five permanent members – China, Russia, the United States, France and Britain – all have veto power over joint resolutions.

Russia, Syria’s main ally, and China have repeatedly blocked previous resolutions sanctioning the Syrian government for its tactics in the two-year-long civil war.




The Sofia Globe staff

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