I am speaking on behalf of the European Union.
The Acceding country Croatia*, the candidate countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*and Iceland+, the countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
The European Union fully reaffirms its support to Kofi Annan’s efforts and six-point plan. Once more, the European Union calls upon the Syrian regime to immediately cease all forms of violence and repression and to provide its full support to the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). Full implementation of the plan is essential to enable a comprehensive political dialogue leading to a democratic and inclusive political transition, freedom of expression, and protection of human rights in Syria. The EU underlines that the six-point plan is not an open-ended offer and that the plan and the deployment of UNSMIS constitute the best opportunity to support a peaceful solution to the crisis.
After the massacre in Houla – and reports of similar shocking killings yesterday in Hama Province adding to the horror – we see the Annan plan as the last chance to achieve a peaceful solution. After 15 months of bloodshed, no efforts should be spared to immediately stop all forms of violence and start a political process.
At the request of the European Union and other partners, the Human Rights Council adopted last Friday a resolution condemning the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and the horrific killings in Houla. Those responsible for these acts must be held accountable. The in-depth investigation by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria into the massacre in Houla must be conducted without delay. The European Union urges the Syrian authorities to fully cooperate with this investigation.
Violence and repression cannot be the solution. Any further militarization of the conflict will bring enormous suffering to Syria and risks having a dramatic impact on the region.
The European Union will continue to strongly make the case to the Syrian leadership and people and to its international partners for the necessity of initiating an urgent political transition in Syria. Some countries have an important leverage in convincing the regime to comply with its commitments. The European Union will continue its contacts with its main international partners in order to coordinate efforts. The members of the Security Council have a special responsibility in ensuring that a solution to the current impasse is found.
The presence of UNSMIS, which is now fully deployed, allows for a credible assessment of the situation in Syria and the level of implementation of the six-point plan and therefore should result in a reduction of the level of violence. The European Union and its Member States are providing support to the mission, as requested by the UN, and it will continue to provide assistance to UNSMIS in any way possible. The European Union would be ready to consider a reinforcement of UNSMIS’ mandate if requested by the Special Envoy. The Syrian authorities must fulfill their international obligations and extend the fullest cooperation to the UN in the deployment of UNSMIS, not least in ensuring the fullest protection and security for UNSMIS personnel.
The European Union shares the view that the continued fragmentation of the opposition is a challenge. The European Union continues proactively to encourage the opposition groups to articulate a common vision for a new Syria. The European Union is engaging with all opposition groups – inside Syria and abroad – and it stands ready to facilitate further initiatives, to complement the efforts deployed by the League of Arab States in this regard.
Turning to the issue of humanitarian assistance, it is important to separate the humanitarian track from the political track. The EU reiterates its call on the Syrian authorities to grant immediate, unimpeded and full access of humanitarian organizations to all areas of Syria in order to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need. The European Union is providing substantial humanitarian support in Syria and in neighbouring countries. Additional measures to support both civil society within Syria and Syrian people who have fled to neighbouring countries are being prepared. These additional measures will complement the humanitarian assistance already provided.
The European Union will continue to impose sanctions on the Syrian regime as long as repression continues. A key component of the European Union sanctions is the arms embargo which has been imposed. There can be no doubt about the direct link between this measure and the ability of the regime to continue its policy of repression. In view of recent events in Syria, the European Union continues to call on the international community – including in the UN context – to take similar measures. By the same token, it considers that any contribution to the militarisation of the conflict only risks bringing chaos to Syria and to the region.
The situation in Syria could have a destabilising impact in the region, in particular in Jordan and Lebanon, not least because of the potential increase in the number of refugees, but also in economic and trade terms. The recent violent incidents in Lebanon show that the risk of a spill over of the Syrian conflict remains high.
We are currently at a critical point in the Syrian crisis. After 15 months of bloodshed, no efforts should be spared to immediately stop all forms of violence and start a political process. We need to avoid a catastrophe.
Thank you Mr President.
* Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
+ Iceland continues to be a member of EFTA and the European Economic Area.