Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs said the EU should step up support for Syrian protesters, and condemned Iran for assisting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, at a meeting with Syrian opposition leader and human rights lawyer Haitham al-Maleh on Wednesday. The committee also heard Libyan opposition chief Mahmoud Jibril, who urged the EU to "liberate frozen assets to aid the Libyan population".
MEPs from various political groups interviewed Syria's opposition leaders on Wednesday to identify how best the EU can help them.
"Simply freezing the assets of certain people will not stop this bloodshed. I agree that you don't need the sort of international military intervention done in Libya but we need to stay in the middle and find concrete ways to help", chair of the EP Delegation for relations with Syria Mario David (EPP, PT) told the opposition representatives.
Mr David also criticised Iran's assistance to the Syrian regime and also the "double standards" shown by countries like Russia, China and Brazil in dealing differently with Libya and Syria.
Bastiaan Belder (EFD, NL) and Hans-Gert Pöttering (EPP, DE), stressed the need to protect Sunni and Christian minority groups, whereas Hélène Flautre (Greens/EFA, FR), noted that Turkey's stance was shifting against President al-Assad.
Any room for dialogue?
"Today 3000 tanks surround Syrian villages; there is no water, no food. The regime daily takes men out of their houses while their wives watch them", said Haitham al-Maleh, a human rights lawyer and activist held for 17 months in arbitrary detention in Syria and only recently released. His detention was denounced by the European Parliament in a resolution passed in September last year.
Asked by several MEPs about the chances of the plural and nascent opposition movements engaging in dialogue with President al-Assad, Mr al-Maleh replied that "We refuse to talk to them because they are killers", adding that to date, up to 2,000 people had been killed, 15,000 imprisoned, thousands had disappeared and many 12 to 14 year-old children had been tortured.
To the Syrian regime, he said: "If you want any dialogue first you have to stop killing people, pull off the tanks, stop abusing power to prevent demonstrations, and allow the opposition to meet".
We need help, not international military intervention
French-Syrian professor Burham Ghalioun said the EU should help Syria to make a transition to democracy "in any possible manner", except by means of an international military intervention which the different opposition movements are not ready to accept. "The presence of MEPs and other politicians in the streets would be very useful to protect protestors. We also need rapid solutions to the basic humanitarian needs of the Syrian people".
Libya: Liberate frozen assets for humanitarian aid
A delegation of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) headed by its diplomatic chief Mahmoud Jibril met top EU officials and MEPs on Wednesday, as the allied military intervention in Libya neared the end of its fourth month. Mr Jibril stressed the severe difficulties faced by the Libyan population, including acute shortages of food, cash, medicines and medical assistance, especially at the Tunisian border. The EU should liberate the regime's frozen assets as a matter of urgency, so that the money can be used for humanitarian aid, he said.
Asked about the NTC's vision of the conflict and whether he could envisage a negotiated end to it, Mr Jibril set two preconditions: an immediate ceasefire and the opening of a humanitarian corridor for refugees, especially across the Tunisian border.
Franziska Bantner (Greens/EFA, DE) asked how much credit Mr Jibril gave to media leaks stating that Muammar Gaddafi was ready to leave Libya. "I will believe it when I see it", he said. Charles Tannock (ECR, UK) suggested that Algeria might be assisting Gaddafi's regime by opening a free corridor for weapons.
Marielle De Sarnez (ALDE, FR) asked about reports that Al Qaeda was building up arms stocks in the Maghreb region. Mr Jibril said that the accusations against the Algerian government were justified, adding that Colonel Gaddafi was deliberately smuggling missiles to Al Qaeda in order to destabilise the country and make the international community believe that in his absence, Libya would be in the hands of terrorists.
This was Mr Jibril's second visit to the European Parliament representing the new Libyan opposition force. Back in May, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton extended de-facto recognition to the Transitional Council when the EU opened a diplomatic office in Benghazi.
In the chair : Gabriele ALBERTINI (EPP, IT)