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Cyprus Internet Directory [ UN stalemate increases pressure on EU ]

UN stalemate increases pressure on EU

Stefanos Evripidou


GIVEN THE current deadlock in the UN Security Council (UNSC) over the Syrian crisis, the EU must focus on tackling the growing humanitarian crisis in and around the country while encouraging the Syrian opposition to show a united front, said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton yesterday.  

The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy made the comments at a press conference in Nicosia yesterday following a two-day informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Paphos.  

The main focus of the meeting was “the ongoing tragedy in Syria”, she said. 

“It is clear from all of our discussions that we are adamant (Syrian President Bashar al) Assad should go, and we need to see the political transition to inclusive democracy”. 

However, not all heavyweights in the UN Security Council agree with that view. Russia and China have blocked a number of efforts to apply stricter sanctions against the Assad regime and permit more tangible assistance to the Syrian opposition, resulting in the US and its allies, including the EU, working outside of the UN framework. 

According to Ashton, the EU ministers, gathered in Paphos, focused on the importance of supporting the new UN-Arab League special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi in his search for a peaceful, political solution.  

They also recognised that “the inability of the UNSC to move forward means that the pressure is on all of us to try and respond in a coherent way on the issues of greatest concern”, she said, singling out the need for the Syrian opposition to create an “inclusive” base which represents all the people of Syria. 

Many observers have warned that the fabric of Syrian society, particularly in terms of the numerous religious groups, is so diverse that there is a strong possibility Syria will implode and fragment should Assad fall. 

Ashton acknowledged the risk, saying opposition groups must find ways to make the Syrian people feel part of “the push for a future that includes everyone”- except Assad. 

“I keep going back to this word, inclusivity. It’s really very important that people in Syria feel, whoever they are, that they are part of that future. It means reaching out to minority groups, making sure they do feel that. That’s the way we have to go, even more so when we don’t see the UN Security Council being able to move forward,” she said. 

The EU foreign policy chief told reporters in Nicosia yesterday that the humanitarian crisis was “an absolute priority” for the EU. 

The EU was working on a number of different tracks (political, diplomatic and humanitarian) as well as supporting the Syrian opposition groups to come together and create a viable plan for the future of Syria, she said. 

EU foreign ministers are also in agreement on the need to support neighbouring countries like Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey who have seen an influx of Syrian refugees. 

“The numbers are increasing quite dramatically. We have about 230,000 refugees that have come across the borders,” said the EU foreign policy chief. 

On Friday, the UN said about 2.5 million people need humanitarian aid as a result of the conflict just across the water from Cyprus, following the upsurge in violence over the summer. 

“The situation for the people of Syria  is appalling and getting worse every day,” John Ging, director of operations for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) was quoted saying.  

The UN has almost doubled its appeal for funds for humanitarian aid to Syrians from$180 million (€140m) to $347 million (€271m) while the European Commission announced it would give a further €50m million in addition to its existing €69m contribution.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Marcoullis, the official co-host of the informal meeting labelled gymnich, said EU ministers were “united in our position on Syria”, noting that the message from the meeting is “very loud and clear on what needs to be done”.

Regarding the possible evacuation of EU and third country nationals from the region, Marcoullis said a plan has been drawn up to evacuate up to 200,000 people from Syria and neighbouring countries like Lebanon and bring them to Cyprus for 24 to 48 hours, just enough time for their respective countries to arrange for their further transport to new destinations.  

Asked whether further sanctions would be implemented on Iran, Marcoullis said the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, “in every meeting, every month, adds to the sanctions against the regime, and in that sense, I think that would be very natural to continue to do that”.

Ashton said sanctions were kept under review all the time, noting that a number of ministers (reportedly France, Germany and Britain) raised the issue of strengthening them. 

She added that it was also important to ensure current sanctions were not being “evaded or avoided”. 

Speaking to the Sunday Mail, a diplomatic source said the Cyprus gymnich provided “very important groundwork, guidelines and a sense of direction” for decisions that will take place at a later date. 

“It’s the only meeting where the ministers are on their own, there are no delegates or diplomats with them to monitor or check or put them in a cage. So it’s a real chance for brainstorming,” he said. 





EU High Representative Catherine Ashton with Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis in Nicosia yesterday (PIO)

(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.

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