“Their unspeakable cruelty, including abductions and brutal murders of civilians, constitute crimes against humanity,” Minister of Foreign Affairs, K Shanmugam, told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
He was referring to the militant group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“It is brutal, cruel and a travesty of all that religion stands for.”
Mr Shanmugam says that “Singapore firmly supports all international and regional cooperation efforts” to combat ISIS, but does not say if Singapore will be sending troops to help in these efforts.
His remarks come about two weeks after Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, said the Southeast Asian country has “not reached a point of making a decision yet” on whether it would join the international fight against ISIS.
“How we can support the American-led effort? That’s something we can discuss,” he said on 19 September.
About 50 countries so far, including nations from the Arab League, have pledged their support for the United States-led campaign to wipe out the terrorist group which has swept across and taken large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.
In his speech on Tuesday, Mr Shanmugam said “Singapore condemns these terrorist actions in the strongest possible terms” and welcomes “the strong leadership of the United States, in particular the formation of the international coalition to combat the ISIS threat.”
Singapore also supports the Jeddah declaration by Arab countries to stand united against ISIS.
Mr Shanmugam also said that the fight against ISIS should not be limited to just the military front.
Other areas included cutting off financial and material support for the group.
“The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178 this year, on foreign terrorist fighters, which Singapore co-sponsored, is an important step to combat global terrorism, and it will be critical for: cutting off financial aid and material support for ISIS and preventing the movement of foreign terrorist fighters,” Mr Shanmugam said.
Still, the fight goes beyond this, and should also address the radical ideology which ISIS is spreading through the world.
“The threat of such terrorism and radical ideology is not confined to the Middle East,” Mr Shanmugam said. “It affects the whole world. An estimated 15,000 foreigners from at least 80 countries, including from Southeast Asia, have travelled to fight in Syria and Iraq. That ISIS can attract so many foreign fighters highlights the need for a comprehensive strategy to counter them. In addition to military and intelligence efforts, we must also combat the radical ideology used to recruit foreign fighters, and which fuels their extremist agenda.”
He said that “no country can insulate itself from these problems.”
“We need to combat them at all levels,” Mr Shanmugam said. “Critically: fair economic development, good governance, political and, social stability will increase a country’s resilience against these threats.”
Also at the UN Assembly on Tuesday, the much awaited speech by the Syrian representative, Deputy Prime Minister Walid Al-Moualem.
Mr Al-Moualem spoke several hours before Mr Shanmugam, and his eagerly anticipated speech would indicate the Syrian government’s position on the air strikes which the US and its coalition partners have launched against ISIS militants in Syria.
Referring to ISIS, he said its advance in Iraq and Syria “might have surprised many of the countries present here, but not…us.”
“We have spoken on more than one occasion and on more than one international platform about the grave danger of the terrorism striking Syria,” said Mr Al-Moualem, who is also Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates.
In a passionate speech, Mr Al-Moualem said ISIS is “unrivalled in funding and brutality”, which include acts of enslaving women, raping them and selling them in slave markets; cutting off heads and limbs of those who do not abide by their dictates, and that ISIS is teaching children slaughter and murder; and destroying historical and cultural monuments, as well as Islamic and Christian symbols in the land it occupies.
“Has not the moment of truth arrived for us all to admit that ISIL, A1-NusrahFront and the rest of A1-Qaeda affiliates, will not be limited within the borders of Syria and Iraq, but will spread to every spot it can reach, starting with Europe and America?” he asked.
“Is it not due time…for all of us to stand as one in the face of this serious menace of terrorist Takfiri ideology worldwide?” he asked.
Mr Al-Moualem’s speech did not directly address or state the Syrian’s government position on the US-led air strikes, and is seen as tacit acceptance of the international operation inside Syrian territory.
In an interview with the international media on the same day, he urged the US to widen its military campaign to target other terrorist groups as well.
“They have the same ideology. They have the same extremist ideology,” he told AFP, urging the US-led air strikes to hit all Islamic rebel factions fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
As for the political turmoil in Syria itself, Mr Al-Moualem said his government is ready and even “striving for a political solution in Syria and in dialogue with all honourable national opposition members opposing terrorism in Syria, and among Syrians themselves and on Syrian territory.”
Read Mr Shanmugam’s speech in full here: Shanmugam, UN.
Read UN’s report on Mr Al-Moualem’s speech here: Al-Moualem, UN.
Read AFP’s report here: US should hit all militants in Syria.