Václav Klaus addresses the UN for the last time as president

Václav Klaus, photo: CTK

President Václav Klaus' speech to the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday placed a strong focus on Syria. But instead of calling for effective action, as some other world leaders had, the Czech president took a more cautious stance, questioning the wisdom of external military interventions.

Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, the Czech President Václav Klaus expressed concern over the use of external military interventions in crisis-stricken countries. Echoing the sentiment of many of Tuesday’s speakers to the assembly, President Klaus said the Czech Republic favours resolving conflicts through peaceful means. With this generally accepted statement, though, he referred to the highly divisive issue of the current conflict in Syria. The Czech leader warned about making hasty decisions without following through to the end:

“There is no doubt that we have to look at the situation in Syria from a broader and more long-term perspective. We should know what needs to be done tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. I am afraid that this is the most important lesson learnt from other similar situations, most recently from the military intervention in Libya.”

Unlike the veiled criticism of the actions of international armed forces in Libya, President Klaus did not hide his disapproval of past engagements of UN armed forces in conflicts on sovereign territories.

Aleppo,  Syria,  September 24 2012,  photo: CTK
“We have to ask ourselves: Do the external interventions improve the situation, or do they rather make it worse by hindering spontaneous processes that could re-introduce stability in the region possibly with smaller sacrifices compared to the price paid by the external intervention? Are, for instance, the developments in Iraq, the still open Cyprus issue or the independence of Kosovo a success of the UN or not?”

As an example of correct and peaceful conflict resolution that is rooted in local conditions, President Klaus cited the difficult, but successful division of Czechoslovakia two decades ago. He also praised the Czech Republic’s efforts to alleviate the situation in Syria by consistently providing humanitarian aid and setting up aid centers in neighboring countries for Syrian refugees.

The best conflict resolution, in the president’s view, should come from local politicians. But if an international intervention does take place it should be peaceful and, above all, in line with the long-term spontaneous developments in the region.

The 67th session of the General Assembly at U.N. headquarters,  photo: CTK
“The mandate of the negotiating parties has to be rooted in domestic conditions and local traditions as firmly as possible and the external observers must not succumb to the temptation of imposing a settlement that they themselves regard as the right one, but which is not in line with the long-term spontaneous developments in the country or region in question.”

The Czech leader’s address to the UN General Assembly, underlining his strong views on national sovereignty, was most likely President Klaus’ final bow on the international stage before his second term expires in March of next year.