The Malta Independent 15 August 2022, Monday

Editorial: The right decision… in the end

Sunday, 30 October 2016, 10:18 Last update: about 7 years ago

Malta’s constitutional neutrality is being increasingly called into question these days – from the country’s arguably correct stance during the Libyan revolution to the surveillance missions that have purportedly been undertaken by French forces, as revealed this week after their ‘spy plane’ went down in a ball of flames over Luqa.

There is no doubt that the promised constitutional convention, of which we have not heard a word for some time now, will have to seriously consider the country’s constitutional neutrality, which was enshrined in the Constitution in different times and for different considerations.

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In this day and age, with the Cold War now long done and dusted, and with the country now being a member of the European Union, it is high time that the constitutional clause that stipulates the country’s neutrality must be re-engineered to reflect today’s drastically changed day and age.

Toward the end of last week yet another constitutional neutrality conundrum raised its head when it was revealed that a Russian warship, apparently headed to the coast of Syria, was to dock in Malta where it was to take on fuel and supplies.

This case is a serious one indeed and the fact that Malta, at the end of the day, refused permission has been applauded most of the world over. That is because it is no secret that Russian bombs have been hailing down on the besieged city of Aleppo, and elsewhere, causing so much death and destruction that one’s blood curdles at the mere thought of what is taking place.

Syrians are being slaughtered wholesale and, geopolitics aside, those Russian bombs are at the very least partly to blame for the great tragedy that is continually unfolding with increasing ferocity in today’s Syria.

The phrase ‘not in our name’ has become somewhat hackneyed recently, but it aptly describes what the vast majority of the Maltese population feels about the prospect of aiding and abetting the war crimes being committed in Aleppo and across the hellish inferno that Syria has become.

Malta, however, had a narrow miss this time around and our country was almost complicit in the atrocities being committed on a daily basis, of which, we are more than certain, a critical mass of the Maltese population want to have nothing to do with in any way, shape or form.

That is because it now transpires that Malta had at first given diplomatic clearance for a Russian tanker to berth in Malta to refuel the warship a week ago. The Maltese government, thankfully, announced on Thursday that Malta would not be refuelling Russian ships – reportedly under pressure from the United States and the United Kingdom to rescind the permission.

Malta decision came just a day after Spain refused to resupply Russian warships that are suspected to be headed toward the eastern Mediterranean to support Russian and Syrian airstrikes – airstrikes that have caused so much harrowing devastation and loss of civilian life.

While the refuelling incident and Malta’s eventual decision to deny the Russians permission to refuel in Malta reflects Malta’s constitutional neutrality, it also, on the other hand, shows that Malta is in a position to take the right stance in situations such as these, and that it absolutely must take such stances when called to do so.

Just yesterday Syrian government forces launched a counteroffensive under the cover of airstrikes in an attempt to regain control of areas in Aleppo. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the new offensive by Syrian troops and their allies went under the cover of Russian and Syrian airstrikes.

The United Nations General Assembly on Friday voted Russia off the UN Human Rights Council, a solid and reverberating rebuke to the country which is increasingly being accused of war crimes over its actions in Syria.

Malta itself rebuked Russia this week, and in so doing it took the right stance. Malta had absolutely no business contributing in any way to the atrocities being committed. This newspaper and the vast majority of the Maltese population salute the government’s decision, which was the right one at the end of the day.

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