At the outset, allow me to express my appreciation to you for convening this open debate. Your presence is a testament to the importance that the Republic of Korea places on "the protection of civilians in armed conflict" - a subject of great significance to the international community.
Eight months have passed since our last debate in these halls on "the protection of civilians in armed conflict." Since then, the death toll in Syria has quadrupled - from 14,000 in June to over 60,000 now. The civilians caught in the crosshairs of the Assad regime continue to cry out for protection. Every one of those cries that goes unanswered highlights our failures.
Today, my thoughts are with the students of Aleppo University, who were indiscriminately slaughtered by the Syrian military last month because of the school's reputation as the "university of the revolution."
They are with Sayyad Ali, who fled Syria in December and now lives with his family in a tent in an abandoned part of northern Lebanon. He is just one of over 800,000 Syrians who have fled the Assad regime since 2011. Across the Middle East, they are being forced to bear the harsh storms of winter with the most meager of shelter and provisions. For these refugees, the only thing more painful than the cold weather they experience is the cold shoulder they receive from the international community.
The clock is ticking. Every day that passes before this Council takes firm and decisive action in Syria is another day that countless civilians lose their lives - and countless more lose hope. Those of us sitting here today must begin speaking loudly, clearly, and unequivocally against the horrors of the Assad government. The ophthalmologist from Damascus cannot continue blinding us to his crimes.
Assad is not alone. On his advisory board sits Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who gives him guidance on how to slaughter civilians more effectively. With the blessings of Iran, its patron saint, Hezbollah has provided arms, training, and logistical support for tens of thousands of Assad's men. It has assisted the Syrian military in cracking down on dissidents so that Assad can cling to power.
Iran's arm extends from Syria into Lebanon, where it has helped Hezbollah amass 50,000 missiles - more than many NATO members - and transform the Lebanese state into an outpost for terror. Hezbollah intentionally places its arms in civilian areas, using the entire population of Lebanon as a human shield. Its idea of "investing in the next generation" is to stockpile its weaponry in the immediate vicinity of schools and playgrounds.
Hezbollah's reign of terror extends far beyond the Middle East. Its fingerprints have been identified on attacks in all five continents, from Kenya to Argentina to Thailand. Last week, Bulgarian authorities also identified Hezbollah as the culprit behind the July bus bombing in Burgas, which killed five Israelis and one Bulgarian citizen. This was the deadliest attack on European soil since 2005.
Despite this, however, Hezbollah remains conspicuously absent from the European Union's list of recognized terrorist organizations. In fact, many states - including some in this hall - continue to classify Hezbollah as a charity. Not since Napoleon invaded Russia has the European continent seen such an astonishing lack of foresight.
Make no mistake: Hezbollah's sole purpose - its raison d'etre - is to commit terrorist acts both inside and outside the Middle East. Calling Hezbollah a charity is like calling al Qaida an urban-planning organization because of its desire to level tall buildings.
Some European lawmakers continue to bend over backwards attempting to differentiate between Hezbollah’s military and political wings. This is an exercise in futility. The only "difference" between these two wings is that the political wing negotiates the sum of drug cartel money that the military wing later uses to purchase weaponry. It does not take a Nobel Peace Prize laureate to realize that we are not exactly dealing with a selfless humanitarian organization.
One does not need the fortitude of Richard the Lionheart to do the right thing here. The EU must find the moral and political courage to place Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations. It must send a clear message that Hezbollah can no longer target its citizens with impunity. The voices of the victims of Hezbollah terror call on us to take collective action - and work together to bankrupt the world's most dangerous "charity".
We have held many debates in these halls on the "protection of civilians." It is now our responsibility to transform those words into direct and concrete action. The numbers of civilian casualties across the globe grow on a daily basis. We cannot allow our indifference to those numbers to grow alongside them.
Today I urge this Council to heed the simple yet immortal words of Edmund Burke (and I quote): "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
Thank you, Mr. President.