– As delivered –
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Acceding country Croatia* and the candidate country Montenegro align themselves with this statement.
The European Union stands by the Syrian people in its courageous struggle for freedom, dignity and democracy. The use of force by the Syrian regime against civilians, including by heavy weapons and aerial bombardments, has reached unprecedented levels and can only exacerbate further the violence and endanger the stability of the whole region. The EU recalls that the priorities should be to end oppression, stop all violence, deliver humanitarian aid for all those in need, prevent further regional instability and be prepared for the post-conflict period. The EU underlines that those whose presence would undermine the political transition should be excluded and that President Assad, in this regard, has no place in the future of Syria. The EU remains committed to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria.
The European Union remains deeply concerned by the spill-over effects of the Syrian crisis in neighbouring countries in terms of security and stability The EU strongly condemns the shelling by Syrian forces of the Turkish territory, particularly on the border town of Akçakale on 3 October. The EU calls on all to prevent escalation. The EU calls again on the Syrian authorities to fully respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all neighbouring countries.
Recalling that the main responsibility for the current crisis lies with the Syrian authorities, the EU warns against further militarisation and radicalisation of the conflict and sectarian violence which can only bring further suffering to Syria and risks having a tragic impact in the region. In this regard, the EU expresses concern about the protection of civilians, in particular vulnerable groups and religious communities. The intensification of violence and the recent series of terrorist attacks demonstrate the urgent need for a political transition that would meet the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people and bring stability in Syria.
The EU reiterates its full support for the endeavours of Lakhdar Brahimi as Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria and stands ready to strengthen its cooperation with him. The EU emphasises the need to focus international and regional efforts to solve the Syrian crisis through a political solution and calls on key actors in the region and all members of the UN Security Council to uphold their responsibilities and support Brahimi’s efforts.
In view of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and of the approaching winter, the EU recalls the moral imperative to step up assistance to all affected populations throughout Syria and neighbouring countries. The EU will continue to provide assistance and calls on all donors to increase their contributions to the latest UN appeals for funding humanitarian assistance and refugee assistance. All parties should allow full and safe access for the delivery of humanitarian aid in all parts of the country, and respect international humanitarian law. The European Union urges all parties to the conflict to respect in full their legal and moral obligations to protect civilians. Particularly alarmed by the dramatic and growing difficulties in the access in Syria to medical services, the EU urges all parties to commit themselves to respect in full the inviolability of all medical facilities, medical personnel and vehicles in respect of applicable international humanitarian law.
The EU is appalled by the deterioration of the situation in Syria and in particular by the widespread and systematic violations of human rights, international humanitarian law and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities. The EU welcomes the extension of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria and its strengthening through the nomination of two new members. The EU reaffirms its support to the Commission’s investigations into alleged violations of international human rights law with a view to hold to account those responsible for such violations, including for those that may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes according to the definition of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The EU underlines the importance of documentation of the widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations and recalls that all those responsible must be held accountable.
The EU recalls that an inclusive and coordinated opposition is essential to start a political transition. The EU continues to urge all opposition groups, inside and outside Syria, to put aside their differences and to agree on a set of shared principles and start working towards an inclusive, orderly and peaceful transition in Syria .The EU will continue to work closely with the League of Arab States and facilitate further dialogue initiatives to complement its efforts to encourage the opposition towards forming an inclusive common platform.
The EU approved today additional restrictive measures against Syria. The EU stands ready to engage with those seriously committed to a genuine democratic transition. The EU will continue its policy of imposing additional measures targeting the regime, not the civilian population, as long as repression continues. It calls on all Syrians to dissociate themselves from the repressive policy of the regime in order to facilitate a political transition.
The EU commits to working closely and comprehensively with international partners on planning to ensure the international community is ready to provide rapid support to Syria once transition takes place.
On the Middle East Peace Process political changes across the region underline the urgent need for progress. The EU is convinced that heeding the aspirations of the people in the region, including those of Palestinians for statehood and those of Israelis for security is a crucial element for lasting peace, stability and prosperity in the region as a whole.
It is in the fundamental interest of the EU, of the parties and of the wider region to resolve the conflict, which can be achieved through a comprehensive peace agreement, based on the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the Madrid principles, the Roadmap, the agreements previously reached by the parties and the Arab Peace Initiative. The European Union stresses once again the central role of the Quartet in this context.
The EU recognises the additional challenges which both parties currently face. The Palestinian Authority continues to face severe financial difficulties which risk undermining everything which it has achieved to date, including the state readiness of the Palestinian Authority regarding its institutions in key sectors, which has been acknowledged by the international community, most recently at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting here on 23 September. In this regard, the EU calls on international donors to increase their support to the Palestinian Authority treasury, on the PA to continue reforms and improve the business environment and on Israel to take further and broader steps to enable Palestinian sustainable economic development, including in Area C and in the Gaza Strip.
Changes underway in the region continue to present Israel with uncertainty but also offer opportunities in its relations with the Arab world. At the same time, progress on the Middle East Peace Process would contribute to regional stability and offer new opportunities for the region as a whole.
The EU and its Member States reaffirm their fundamental commitment to the security of Israel, including with regard to vital threats in the region, and are committed to a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which will guarantee security and prosperity for both Israel and a future Palestinian state. The EU is appalled by recurring rocket attacks from Gaza and condemns in the strongest terms violence deliberately targeting civilians.
Our position as to how to achieve such a resolution is clear: direct negotiations between the parties, in the framework of a credible set of parameters, including those established in the Quartet’s statement of 23 September 2011, remain the best way forward. The EU will continue to contribute, including within the Quartet, to the work for that solution.
The EU encourages others in the region to facilitate a return to negotiations and calls on the parties themselves to demonstrate their commitment to a peaceful solution by actions that can create an environment of trust necessary to ensure meaningful negotiations can start without delay. Now, more than ever, bold decisions by both parties are needed and both parties must respect their obligations under the Roadmap. Settlement expansion, which constitute a violation of international law and threatens to make a two state solution impossible, must cease immediately.
The EU reiterates its grave concern about these developments, including the acceleration of settlement construction and the serious limitations on the Palestinian Authority to promote the economic development of Palestinian communities in Area C. Continuing demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures, displacement and plans of forced transfer as well as settler violence also remain a serious concern. The EU reiterates its call for Israel to work together with the PA to allow more access to and control of the PA over Area C. Social and economic developments in Area C are of critical importance for the viability of a future Palestinian state, as Area C is its main land reserve. A way must also be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.
The EU continues to call for intra-Palestinian reconciliation behind President Abbas in line with the principles set out in his speech of 4 May 2011, as an important element for the unity of a future Palestinian state and for reaching a two state solution. The situation in Gaza continues to be of great concern. Fully recognizing Israel’s legitimate security needs, the EU continues to call for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from the Gaza Strip.
The EU calls for the full respect of international humanitarian law.
High Representative/Vice-President Ashton will travel to Lebanon, Jordan, the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel later this month and more widely in the region in November. The European Union also looks forward to hosting the next meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Brussels in spring next year. At the same time our hope is not then to be simply reiterating the statements we have made at that forum in recent years while the parties themselves drift further apart.
* Croatia and Montenegro continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.