The world must face its responsibility in the face of the “heinous crimes” committed during Israel’s military operation against Hamas, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad told the meeting in Tehran.
He urged the governments participating in the meeting to apply pressure at the United Nations to have Israeli leaders brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC), Syria’s official news agency SANA reported.
Miqdad represents a regime whose own referral to the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity was blocked last March when Russia and China vetoed a Security Council resolution, backed by the council’s 13 other members and supported by an additional 58 countries.
The vetoed resolution had been drafted by France after the Security Council was briefed on evidence of atrocities provided by a Syrian army defector codenamed Cesar, who testified on Capitol Hill last week.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors fatalities on all sides of the civil war, more than 171,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011, including around 56,500 civilians, more than 9,000 of them children.
An independent U.N.-mandated commission of inquiry reported recently on the ongoing plight of Syrian civilians, the victims of indiscriminate bombing and shelling, including the use of barrel bombs. The report included information on regime attacks on schools, including an April 30 missile attack on a primary school in Aleppo that killed 33 children and three adults.
Palestinians in Syria have been hard hit in the conflict. The Damascus suburb of Yarmouk was home to more than 150,000 Palestinians before the war began and now has around 20,000 residents. The regime has besieged the area since last year, leading to “severe malnutrition and starvation,” according to the inquiry report. (Amnesty International says scores of Yarmouk residents have starved to death.)
Overall, an estimated 9.3 million Syrians, the vast majority women and children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, with 4.2 million people internally displaced and another 2.8 million seeking refuge in neighboring countries, the inquiry found.
At Monday’s Gaza-focused meeting in Tehran, Syrian delegate Miqdad accused Israel of wanting to impose its hegemony on the region, to put its people in service of Zionist and Western goals.
He called on all governments to follow the lead of Latin American nations – Brazil, Chile, Ecuador Peru and El Salvador – that have recalled their ambassadors from Israel. Imposing financial, economic and political sanctions on Israel has become “a humanitarian duty,” he declared.
The meeting brought together around 30 representatives of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) – a bloc of developing states which together make up just under two-thirds of the total U.N. membership – including NAM’s 13-member “Palestine Committee”
Iran currently chairs the NAM, and in his address to the gathering President Hasan Rouhani slammed what he called “the continuation of the U.N. Security Council’s indifference and inaction” over the Palestinian issue in the face of Israeli “war crimes and genocide.”
The meeting adopted a statement urging the Security Council to deal with the situation in the Palestinian areas, “which poses a threat to stability and security in the region and the world.”
The 13 members of the NAM committee are Algeria, Bangladesh, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Palestinian territories.
None of them were among the 58 countries who threw their support behind the French-drafted Security Council resolution in March referring the Syrian conflict to the ICC.
When permanent members Russia and China vetoed the measure it was the fourth time they had killed a resolution relating to the Syrian conflict since Oct. 2011. Russia is a close ally of President Bashar Assad and China says it opposes interference in countries’ domestic affairs.