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Slovakia awaits UN report on Syria

EVEN as news headlines are dominated by the Syrian conflict and speculation of a possible US-led intervention, the Slovak government’s official stance remains cautious.

EVEN as news headlines are dominated by the Syrian conflict and speculation of a possible US-led intervention, the Slovak government’s official stance remains cautious.

The US and others are considering intervening in Syria after the country’s government allegedly used chemical weapons against rebels, an attack that US intelligence services claim killed more than 1,400 civilians, some 400 of which were children. The Syrian government however denied the chemical attack and continues calling the rebels terrorists. The conflict in Syria has now raged for two and a half years and claimed more than 100,000 victims.

While the Slovak Foreign Ministry has said it is “deeply disturbed” by the allegations, the government will await a UN report on the incident before taking a stance on what should happen next. The UN deployed experts to investigate whether chemical weapons have been used in the country. The use of chemical weapons is considered a breach of international conventions dating from World War I. UN investigators departed Syria on August 31, and samples from the site of the purported attack are being analysed in laboratories.

No central European government, including Slovakia, has as of yet openly backed a military intervention in Syria. Slovakia’s neighbours have condemned the chemical attack in Syria in official statements, but they do not consider military intervention, especially one without a UN mandate and a solution, and they are waiting for the report of the UN experts from the field, the Sme daily reported.

A Slovak Foreign Ministry ’s official statement from August 27 called on Syria to provide the UN inspectors safe and unlimited access to the territory in order to speed up the investigation of the reports.

“Any use of chemical weapons against inhabitants is a crime against humanity,” the ministry wrote, adding that they expect the UN Security Council to deal with the situation and base its decisions upon the results of the experts’ investigation.

The ministry then repeated its previous calls to stop the violence in Syria and seek a political solution to the crisis.

Slovakia’s President Ivan Gašparovič said that the intervention in Syria would be needed “if a big group of inhabitants was under threat”, as quoted in Sme.

“But it’s not a decision that can be done just like that when someone says that there had been an attack and therefore we must go there,” Gašparovič told Sme.

Support to allies likely

Slovak analysts agree that Slovakia is most likely to support an intervention if there is consensus in favour of it among NATO countries. US President Barack Obama has called for a limited strike on the Syrian government’s military and chemical weapons infrastructure.

It is Slovakia’s long-term position that any military intervention should be backed by the UN Security Council, said Robert Ondrejcsák, director of the Center for European and North Atlantic Affairs (CENAA), speaking in a video interview with Sme.

“On the other hand there are exceptional cases when that wasn’t the case,” Ondrejcsák said. “Slovakia always joined its allies in their actions, and that’s what we should do now as well.”
Ondrejcsák noted that the position of Slovakia is not yet fully clear and will develop in the days to come. It nonetheless remains unlikely that Slovak armed forces will take part in a military intervention. Political support for the allies, however, “will be very important”, Ondrejcsák said.

“At the moment I don’t see any space to engage our armed forces due to the presumed character of the operation,” Ondrejcsák told the TASR newswire, adding that Slovakia’s engagement makes the most sense in peacekeeping missions, since the country can offer teams of medical doctors or engineer units.

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